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Boomkat Product Review:
Mysterious Isle of Wight singer-songwriter Puzzle Muteson sure has talent, but he might well have passed under the radar had he not been discovered by producer and Bedroom Community boss Valgeir Sigurðsson and his buddy Nico Muhly. Sigurðsson - whose past production credits include Bjork, Maps, CocoRosie, Magic Numbers and Ben Frost - has now recorded an album's worth of songs with Muteson, setting his tremulous voice and finger-picked guitar in an honest but exquisitely reverbed ambience, with Muhly's bold, beautifully-weighted string arrangements lending real grandeur and emotional heft to proceedings. Though the mood is largely pensive, all the songs have momentum, they really move: 'Water Rising' is a highlight, propelled along by barely-there percussion and piano notes falling like light rainshowers, as is the bucolic title track 'En Garde', and the swelling, brass-fuelled 'Medusa' - which makes us think of Muhly's celebrated work with Antony, right down to Muteson's gender-bending vocal take. History has shown us time and time again how powerful folk or folk-influenced music can be when brought to life by arrangers favouring characterful chamber instrumentation: Nick Drake's work with Robert Kirby, Roy Harper's with David Bedford and more recently Joanna Newsom's with Van Dyke Parks all come to mind. Puzzle Muteson's En Garde is conceived firmly in this tradition, and is good enough not to be cowed by the hallowed company it keeps. It's really a tremendously warm and uplifting listen, blessed with just divine orchestration from Muhly, and recommended to lovers of timeless songcraft everywhere.