Having led something of a nomadic musical existence, Chris Simpson of Mineral and The Gloria Record returns with a new moniker and a new direction, after deciding to retire the Zookeeper name which housed his previous solo work.
It's a smart move too, as 'Music For Looking Animals' has an entirely different vibe to anything Simpson has done before, even if there's a spiritual through-line with Zookeeper. Resplendent with lilting strings, bellowing horns and backing singers, it's a largely folk-inspired album which is lifted by the arrangements and accoutrements.
And there's nothing superfluous about the embellishments either; the horns on 'Rosemary, Etc' and Death Pause' elevate the songs to a joyous level, while the maudlin strings on 'Becoming All Things' (a reworking of a song from 2007) add depth and gravity to a song that deserves it's unhurried near seven-minute run time.
Indeed, this laidback nature continues throughout 'Music For Looking Animals', as if it's an album to be enjoyed on a long walk or out in the countryside air – and this is no doubt reflected with the outdoorsy nature of the chosen name.
Consequently, 'Music For Looking Animals' has the vibe of a late summers' evening, where the days run late and every motion can be viewed through a sepia lens. By turns wistful, nostalgic and hopeful, it's classic Simpson, creating music that sings and swells, but which sits at odds with the sensitive lyrics. He perhaps doesn't get the credit for his work away from Mineral and The Gloria Record, but 'Music For Looking Animals' serves as a more than timely reintroduction.