Five years in the making, Stornoway‘s recently-released debut album Beachcomber’s Windowsill like so many records before it, is the story of a homegrown musical enterprise. The band of Brits, named after a town on the Scottish isle of Lewis, met and honed their earnest, folk-rock style at the University of Oxford, where an eight-track recorder served as their primary means of laying down songs.
But for whatever they lacked in recording equipment, the quartet made up for in sound. Fast-forward to Beachcomber’s Windowsill, an album delivers over a hundred various instrumental notes—from the echoing chimes of a church bell and the signals of a Morse code message to the indecipherable sound of carrots being chopped.
Sensationally disorienting, the love song “Zorbing” kicks off the album, leading with a choir-like effect that builds to an excitedly robust crescendo. Frontman Brian Briggs explains the title, which takes its name from a slightly madcap activity involving a person rolling down hills inside a large, transparent ball, “I thought zorbing would make a good metaphor for how I was feeling at the time when I wrote the song.”
“If you listen closely, you can hear stuff like various band members muttering, lots of hiss and funny little details that you would normally clean up if you were in a studio,” Briggs says of the album’s audible quirks, which he and the band deliberately chose to preserve. While an amalgamation of sounds, the album is a thoroughly complete work, featuring 11 tracks of mostly-acoustic offerings ranging from fast-paced and riff-heavy (“Watching Birds” and “I Saw You Blink”) to gently wistful (“Long Distance Lullabye”).