- 08 Aug 18
Popular Folker Heads For The Margins
Electric Picnic-bound Ben Howard first caught the public ear with his 2011 debut album, Every Kingdom. The bounce of ‘Keep Your Head Up’ got him on the radio, but it was songs like ‘Old Pine’ and ‘Only Love’ that let you know he had a few John Martyn and Nick Drake records back at the flat, and marked him out ahead of other – for want of a better phrase – indie-folkers. High profile Glastonbury slots, and decent sales, followed. Jeff Buckley fans are directed to Howard’s second album, 2014’s I Forget Where We Were, which hit number one.
Noonday Dream cuts out for different territory. It’s a meditative, almost languid piece that’s not afraid to take its time and drift away, pulling the listener with it. Ambient-folk might describe it. Opener ‘Nica Libres At Dusk’, ‘There’s Your Man’ and ‘Someone In The Doorway’ are probably the most accessible entry points, although they’re hardly hit parade material. ‘A Boat To An Island On The Wall’ builds slowly through its seven-plus minutes, employing a bit of the old musique concrete in the background. Howard reprises it for ‘A Boat To An Island Pt.2/Agatha’s Song’, which sounds like a particularly whacked-out Peter Green playing John Martyn’s ‘Small Hours’. Closer ‘Murmations’ is in no hurry to get where it’s going either – “It’s so peaceful here, don’t want to fuck it up” – and when the drums kick in, you’re reminded of Peter Gabriel’s Us.
It’s an album that needs to be appreciated as a complete whole. The first spin sounded like a right mess, but repeated listens reveal it to be something rather special indeed.