Lamp Black is Edinburgh singer-songwriter Richard Haswell's first studio album since 2013's acclaimed Asteroids. Incredibly this is his 23rd studio album, including recordings as Rhubarb, G For Gnome, and White Noise. Haswell is a master of the kind of experimental trance electro pop that defies easy definition, influenced by the likes of Scott Walker and Teeth Of The Sea. His music is gothic and dark in places, but there is something sweeping and majestic on display too.
The opening track, Sequoia, is a nine minute epic which starts strongly and then loses its way a little in the second half. While it's never uninteresting it is does come across as a little overindulgent, with the musical drone of the Berber Sax taking the lead as the vocals drop away. In some ways it's typical of the album in that the vocals are underplayed while the music soars. At times it feels very reminiscent of Pink Floyd, which may sound like quite a compliment, but it is one that is earned.
The highlights come relatively early, with the one two of Arizona Maybe and the wonderfully named Look Mother! No Hands. The former is a gorgeous song that builds slowly but will leave you feeling strangely lifted up, and is a song you'll come back to time and again. The beautiful melodies return on the instrumental Arizona Maybe Reprise which closes out the album. Look Mother! No Hands is one of my favourite tracks of the year, with Haswell's vocals finally taking centre stage, with a performance that brings to mind Gilmour at his peak. Be Wreckless is also a high point, building into a great rock track.
Despite a mixed start, and the odd overindulgence, this is a strong album. It has its moments of wallowing darkness, but there are also times where the sun breaks through, and leaves you basking in the warmth and light. If your tastes run to the kind of experimental trance atmospheric music that you didn't think existed anymore, this album is for you.
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