Words by Mel Reeve
If you were expecting the kind of luscious melodies and wonderfully world-weary lyrics of Shaw’s last album ‘There’s Always Hope There’s Always Cabernet’ then you’ll probably be a bit disappointed. That said, Shaw’s flair for adding a slightly unsettling edge to his sound, just when you least expect it is even stronger here and he makes marvellous use of sampled conversations, building a complete piece from tiny component parts. The eerie laughter and chatter on ‘Oh Jesus Shut the Blinds’ blends seamlessly with the slowly unfolding melody.
Much like the artwork this has a bleaker, sparser feel when compared to some of Shaw’s previous work. With ‘There’s Always Hope…’ he wobbled along the border between brilliantly edgy pop music and something truly bizarre yet wonderful, with this release he’s slipped and fallen right into the weird. ‘All Meithered Me’ opens with a blended bastardisation of an orchestra tuning up before melding into Shaw’s distinctive, soft, misery-laden vocals. All the while the music hints at some great feeling of joy, so nearly celebratory and jubilant, and by virtue of being that close to a feeling of total bliss, instead it becomes heart-wrenching, surprisingly so considering the simplicity of the arrangements.
It’s beautifully wacky, constantly surprising, yet strangely peaceful. At times the disturbed, twinkly piano melodies can verge on the irritating, and the background fuzz made me stop and check my speakers were working at one point, but if you give it a chance you might find yourself listening to an unexpected gem. It should perhaps also be mentioned that this album was released on Glass Reservoir, an experimental-noise-project-label, so it’s perhaps not surprising that this album is somewhat…experimental. Benjamin Shaw is proving to be an artist that constantly pushes his sound, something that’s not only admirable but also refreshing. He never does quite what the listener expects, instead choosing to craft a work that reflects his own special kind of dour musical genius.
Buy the album via Glass Reservoir Records here.