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After three years in production, Early Cartographer’s debut album has arrived. LookOut is brimming with a consistent sense of jovial camaraderie and not surprisingly, since it employs the talents of the rotating stock of musicians that have at some point all been members of the band or still are. It seems obvious that the band’s mantra - ‘Once a Cartographer, always a Cartographer’ - remains firmly at the centre of the project.

From the start, the album dives into the charming allure that characterises the entire release, given a more immediate sensation due to the interludes of woodland noise and birdsong that interlace the 12 tracks. Both intimate and assured, LookOut is consistently entertaining, bejewelled with sudden bursts of multi-part harmonies, abrupt shifts in tempo and time signature, and fleeting passages of warm melody that fade as quickly as they appear. Intricate marriages of acoustic instrumentation –ukulele, banjo, mandolin, guitar – hover above principal songwriter Ed Cartledge’s yearning vocals, especially on highlights ‘Wormholes’, ‘Safe Place’ and ‘Roundabout’.

It’s the transient moments of gorgeous melody and mature musicianship that help to bridge the gap between the traditional folk sound of the band and a more contemporary aesthetic, with sonic links to outfits like Midlake and Beirut. The complex instrumental arrangements give the album a refined and rich texture without ever sounding overdone or tired.

Aidan Daly