Monday, 12 March 2012

The Water's Edge - Luke Ritchie - Album Review

The Water's Edge - Luke Ritchie - Album Review          

Twitter provides an amazing arena for new and up and coming bands or artists to connect with their potential audience. The sheer volume of new music continually being introduced may be a little overwhelming but if you're a big music fan it won't take you long to get organised and start enjoying artists you may otherwise never have come across.

This is where I stumbled upon the precious gem that is Luke Ritchie whose debut album The Water's Edge was released in November last year. Except it feels more like a second or even third offering from an already well established singer-songwriter. It comes as a result of a mammoth project Luke began when he started writing a song each week for six months back in January 2010. Each song was released as a podcast which I definitely urge you try out if you like what's on offer on this album. With added involvement from composer Nico Muhly, (who has collaborated with the likes of Bjork, Jonsi, Anthony & the Johnsons) and award winning producer Paul Savage (Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai), this album was born.

Opening track The Lighthouse feels like it tries to be many things and succeeds flawlessly at every single one of them. After almost four minutes it reaches an even higher level, setting up the perfect atmosphere for what follows. The ending provides a sneaky glimpse at the true power behind Luke's voice while Nia Lynn's backing vocals add a depth that almost drowns you in a heavy shower of angel tears. It makes for a perfect starting point by the end of which your daily worries should have been packed into the tightest space imaginable leaving behind plenty of room for you to sit back, relax and enjoy the remainder of the ride.

Nico Muhly's piano on Words combined with Luke's vocal creates a moving aural experience. These however are only the foundations on top of which builds a musical skyscraper with a whole host of other instruments joining the journey along the way. Imagine the Empire State Building built entirely from pianos, guitars, violins, cellos, drums and soulful vocals; that would be this track.

Wrap up warm for Northern Lights because the sublime arrangement of the strings, with an, if possible, even softer vocal from Luke might carry you off on a journey far into the north. Not only my mind but my body too floated gently on the breeze, seeking out the most perfect spot to view the lights. I'd actually go as far as to say this song is as magnificent as the phenomenon of its title. It would certainly feature on my soundtrack to the Northern Lights.

While there are a number of slower sounding songs of a melancholy nature, tracks like Shanty, Cover it Up and Lonely Second have such an upbeat rhythm I'd require video evidence from anyone denying these didn't bring out at least the leg jigger in you. Each gets my legs jigging so much it's as if they've been replaced by Muppet legs (perhaps this occurs while fully immersed in the opening song). Then there's Butterfly which has the habit of squatting deeply inside your mind even after just one listen. So when you're going about your day at work and you're humming it over or it is playing on your mind radio and you wonder what it is, this is likely the one. It's a lively number but with interestingly subversive lyrics, 'Even the kids here would tear its wings, rip out her colours all paper thin.'

Contrast these with Looking Glass which is so delicate it almost passes by without much notice. The extended instrumental that kicks in after the vocals cease add some musical depth to what starts out as a very delicate charmer. One of the most poignant songs is penultimate track, Right Then and There. The haunting harmonies sound so beautiful there's a need to make up a word to better describe them. Baunting: a beautiful mix of melodious yet at times haunting vocal sounds. The backing vocals penetrate the ears so deeply, burrowing right into the root of the soul where they don't rest until they've wrapped tightly around it and fallen asleep. The lyrics appear so simple and yet are strikingly evocative. 'As I got dressed, soon I felt, as though I could see through every cloud. Right then and there, I saw my life, as through a lens.' It uses the metaphor of a hair cut to illustrate a significant moment of epiphany. It's just so wonderfully constructed.

Wrapping up with Song to Sundays ends on a cheery upbeat note. Play it as soon as you wake up next Sunday and feel the slight cool breeze of a perfect spring morning blow on your face as you lie back in bed puzzling out the mysteries of your ceiling. For that matter play it every morning as an experiment to see if it works for them too. In fact, we should all petition Luke to write and record a song for every morning to get us through the week. This should of course be a walk in the park for someone who managed to bash out a song a week for six months.

A rollercoaster ride this is not but it doesn't ever try to be, nor does it need to. It's more like one of those magical day trips out where you feel like you've imprinted yourself on the surroundings. The Water's Edge imprints itself leaving you wanting more from this clearly very talented musician. Perhaps it is unfair to pigeonhole Luke into the nu-folk category but amongst the recent successes of Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale and Mumford and Sons to name just three, he's in fine company if this is where he does end up as a result of this debut.

Now I find myself frantically trying to rearrange my social calendar so that I may be able to take in a gig at some point in the near future.

Music of the moment:

Mutineers- check out their album Friends, Lovers, Rivals because it's damn good!


I've recently finished Life Knocks by Craig Stone which I urge you and every member of the human race (and also all the members of all alien races for that matter, and if animals could read I'd urge them to part with their animal cash too for another matter) to check out. A review will follow soon.

I'm currently reading That Bear Ate My Pants! Adventures of a Real Idiot Abroad by Tony James Slater which has me crying with laughter at the scrapes he's finding himself in out as a volunteer in Ecuador. You know what to do. Check this one out too!

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