Wand Hard Knox

The fact that James Toth's website comes up as a Cyrillic language study of Russian forest management is a good indication that tricksterism is elemental in Wand's (nee Wooden Wand) DNA. His traditional acoustic folk framework sets up expectations that are both filled and subverted by a subtly skewed lyricism that occasionally sips from the chalice of Dylan at his quirkiest. With each shedding of a name element (from Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice onwards) Toth has also stripped away an outer layer of musical clothing. Long gone are Gipsy Freedom's tribal-meet-jazz rhythms and gamelan eccentricities. What remains is wry and solid artistry, a hide-in-plain-sight mystery of biblical allegory, darkness and surreal humour. In his self-penned release notes Toth pre-emptively acknowledges that outtake and demo collections generally, well, suck. But this collection's six-year recording history is belied by the cohesiveness of the tracks. It may as well be Wand's first proper album but then again, who knows what his next move might be? (Ecstatic Peace)