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David Gray - 'Gold In A Brass Age' Album Review


1. The Sapling

2. Gold In A Brass Age

3. Furthering

4. Ridiculous Heart

5. It's Late

6. A Tight Ship

7. Watching The Waves

8. Hall Of Mirrors

9. Hurricane Season

10. Mallory

11. If 8 Were 9

'Gold In A Brass Age' is David Gray's first album of new material in four years and he has teamed up with producer Ben DeVries to explore new electronic textures. The album’s artwork, designed by Peckham-based Londonboy Tattooer, depicts an Emperor moth with the City of London captured between its wingspan. The album’s title is drawn from Raymond Carver’s short story Blackbird Pie, and informed by the regenerative cut and thrust of Gray’s adopted home of London and a fascination with the natural world which has long since consumed his time outside of music.

The Album opens with the lead single 'The Sapling' and you immediately hear the new electronic textures. The electronic instrumentation is simple but effective. This track gives a sense of inner peace, whilst reflecting on the passage of time. It runs the danger of being too simple but does build with gospel backing vocals. The Title track 'Gold In A Brass Age' is mesmerising track with layered synth loops and echo, which offers promise but ultimately does not feel like it goes anywhere, which is also true of 'Furthering' with it's gentle percussion. Just as you think that the album may be one dimensional 'Ridiculous Heart' picks up the tempo with a nice rhythm and contemplative vocal. The multi layered feel is turned down a notch on 'It's Late' which has far simpler instrumentation and really plays to Gray's vocal style.

The bells and whistles are re-introduced in 'A Tight Ship' which is a pleasant enough song with some lovely piano loops, and, reverse vocals and instrumentation the whole number has an early 90's feel about it, but the electronic beeps could be distracting. One of my favourite songs on the album, purely due to the lyrical content and the arrangement is 'Watching The Waves' which features acoustic guitar, and is more familiar to David's previous work. The lyrics are rich and metaphorical and David's vocal is warm. Keeping on the guitar vein is 'Hall Of Mirrors' which adds some light to the album it is more upbeat and breezy with its high octave guitar hooks, and snare contrasted with deep bass percussion. It serves as one of the more interesting a varied tracks with its multi Tempo and layered instrumentation. As the album draws to a close we are back to a more contemplative head space and synths and pianos on 'Hurricane Season' and 'Mallory'. The album ends on a high with 'If 8 Were 9' which has more rhythm and use of tambourine. electronic blips and reverse loops.

Due to the contemplative nature of this album it is one of those that needs to be played in order and in full. Dipping in and out on tracks would loose their context. I could not help but feel that in some cases there was too much electronic gimmickry, and some of the beeps for example were off putting. However, in general, the album blends throughout on an electronic cloud of hypnotic calm. In this day and age where everyone seems angry with everyone else this is cathartic and meditative. This is a grower though and the danger is that this could seem too innocuous.

Review - Tony Creek

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