|Ground Luminosity (2015)|
Will Samson — Ground Luminosity (November 2015) •••• Will Samson hails from Brighton, but chose to record, edit and compile the bulk of his new album, ‘Ground Luminosity’, away in not so necessarily sunny locations across Europe, wherein he spent two years lovingly piecing the tracks together.
•••• Will is by all accounts, affable and approachable (he happily replied to a question this reviewer posed within minutes!). He is also what one could call, “a hoarder”, judging by the content of the videos he has been posting online during the “creative process” as they say.
•••• Pulling from a stash (ok hoard) of old tapes, analogue recordings and “vintage equipment”, he has reversed the adage of out with the old and in with the new. Drawing a pencilled line underneath the past, he has charcoaled in an hotch–potch of found and recorded sounds, extensive percussion and luminous electronica, adding more texture, depth and vibrance, to the ubiquitous ambience.
•••• ‘Ground Luminosity’ is a stellar compendium; pieced together like a musical jigsaw puzzle, each track has its place, fitting in perfectly into this carefully woven soundscape. Consisting of eight superbly crafted, diverse but yet complementary tracks, it is as uplifting as it is mindful.
•••• The album opener ‘Tumble takes off with what sounds like a gust of wind, which carries a looping acoustic guitar n synth sequence, via a shower of raindrops, into a river of flowing country–style slide guitar that wouldn’t go astray in Nashville. With the addition of some emo violin, and a smidge of found sounds to tail off, this is a confident start to the album. A soothing, fluid, chilled instrumental this is “gentle on my mind” kind of music. be continued...
Location: Brighton, England, UK
Album release: 2015
Record Label: Talitres
02. Sunbeamer, Pt 1
03. Flow, The Moon
04. Ground Luminosity
05. Pyrton Bells
06. When I Was A Mountain
07. Suspended In
08. Night Canyon
•••• Ground Luminosity is the third full–length album and fourth solo release from British–born musician, Will Samson. Using his familiar and ever–present array of tape machines, Brighton based Will Samson has patiently and carefully crafted his most detailed and ambitious album to date — displaying a much heavier focus on beats and electronics. These pieces were created in various locations across Europe and completed on the northern coast of Portugal. Although the cold, rough Atlantic Ocean provided a great backdrop for inspiration and contemplation (sounds of which can be found in the album), the recording environment itself was less romantic. “The house was so cold at night that there were thick clouds of vapour from my breath when recording the vocals” — he recalls. Inspired by his collaborative works, the beats and electronics, which previously perched subtly in the background, have now edged their way to the front line of Samson’s music. Prominent violins, found sounds, plus contributions from musical peers, such as Benoit Pioulard (Kranky) and Message To Bears all assist in bringing Will’s sonic output a further step forward in its evolution.
•••• ‘Sunbeamer PT1’ is our first introduction to a vocal and oh my, what a lovely, soft, gentle one it is. Serene, contemplative, reflective, it is indicative of Samson’s leaning towards meditative mindfulness. With a quivering string component, some quirky, shuddering percussive beats, and recordings of creaky movement (obviously recorded within inches of the mic), this is ambience with a modern electro twist.
•••• Slide guitar can again be heard on ‘Flow, the Moon’. A chirpy, American number, with lots of repetitive guitar riffs taking a wander up and down the fingerboard, a fizz of static, and recorded sounds redolent of waves washing onto the shore, this is a track played with a lot of love and feeling. Throw in some fluttering heartbeats of percussion and this is working a nice instrumental groove, until half way through, surprise, surprise, up pops a vocal, a superb falsetto, backed up by tightly woven light and shade harmonies. ‘Flow, the Moon’ comprises of all those elements we associate with all things lunar and is a seemingly simple, yet highly complex and very well thought out piece.
•••• “I recently found a small box of cassettes containing some very early album sketches, which I had discarded along the way. I had so much fun digging through these old music seeds that I thought I’d share a little snippet. This piece eventually became unrecognisable from what you hear on this tape…complete with distorted guitars, violins, electronics and vocals. Can’t wait to share the real thing!”
•••• The title track ‘Ground Luminosity’ is a meld of muddled and fuzzy piano sequences, which sound like Samson has taken several old recordings and layered them mille–feuille fashion, one on top of the other, thereby giving it a gorgeous vintage quality. Sparse, minimalist, with light washes of percussion over a constant monotonous thrum, this is luminous by name and nature. Over as quickly as it has begun, this is one for the rewind button.
•••• ‘Python Bells’ starts off as a spacious, soulful affair with melancholic sounds and birdlike noises. Chiming bells, found sounds and a noise redolent of coconut shells mixing it up with spoons, wake it out of its reverie. Pulsing electronic beats bring animation countered by po–faced organ like sounds, making this almost hymn–like. Until whack, searing synth kicks the po out the window until it comes to a close with some thrumming guitar riffs. ‘Python Bells’ fully exemplifies the vivid imagination and hunger to explore and experiment which have driven Will Samson to the lengths that he went to piece not only this track, but this album as whole, together.
•••• “This song also went on to become very different — full of screeching guitars, bass swells, beats & field recordings of thunder for percussion.”
•••• Star of the album, ‘When I was a mountain’ is another meditative composition. Contemplative keyboard sounds complement a very hushed vocal. Electronic beats and twinkling synth shake it up, all the while under their airy spaciousness, darker undercurrents of sound flow. It is lullaby–esque in its nature until there is a sudden rush of electronica, the calm ripped by bullets and bolts of percussion and flickering background beats. It builds to a crescendo with some high organ sounds and string arrangement both melancholic and uplifting, which his utterly sublime. There is an almost Scottish undertone, which Will (this was the question to which he responded so expeditiously) has assured me was not intentional, although he did admit to his father having been a fan of John Martyn back in the day!! This track is like a split screen, simultaneously portraying images of War and Peace. It is the most gorgeous fusion of sounds, and if you liked nothing else on this album, for this track alone, it would be worth paying money.
•••• Two tracks close out the album. ‘Suspended In’ is simply divine. An heavenly instrumental which finds you sitting amidst the stars being serenaded by an heavenly choir singing to a backdrop of stellar strings and wind–like synth. This is what I call, “ambient shoe–gaze”! The album finishes off with ‘Night Canyon’ an hypnotic electronic guitar based ballad featuring nippy percussion and some seriously adept musicianship.
•••• ‘Ground Luminosity’ is brilliant in its subtlety, unique for its method of composition, and imaginative in its conception. It is exceptionally well thought out, performed, arranged and produced. For this lover of all things Ebow, on the far side of indie pop and Icelandic electro — classical a la Arnalds, Will Samson’s work, for me, lies somewhere in the middle. And for this music lover, that is a very, very good place to be. Hats off, 9/10.
•• 2011 Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends (Plop)
•• 2012 Balance (Karaoke Kalk)
•• 2013 Animal Hands (Karaoke Kalk)
•• 2015 Ground Luminosity (Talitres)
•••• This morning I’ve just picked up this new one on Talitres by Will Samson and already have a sense that this will be ranking high amongst my favourite records of the year. There’s a stark sadness to it which will be perfect for the colder months ahead and there’s a great use of variety in the sound content. Samson starts things off with ‘Tumble’ which begins with a gentle plucked guitar line which opens up to lo–fi electronic beats, wailing Hawaiian style guitar and mournful strings. It is an instrumental piece and is a breathtakingly beautiful way to start an album. ‘Sunbeamer Pt. I.’ is the next of the 8 pieces to ‘Ground Luminosity’ and is the first glimpse of Samson’s vocals — these sit atop languid, muddied guitar drones. Again, strings join the mix along with some shattered IDM beats. ‘Flow The Moon’ starts again with some beautifully lazy guitar chords are joined by fractured plucked guitar and Samson’s voice, which may remind you a little of Patrick Watson. The title track refreshes the palette; an instrumental of tape–saturated piano and gentle cymbal crashes.
•••• ‘Pyrton Bells’ begins with a field recording, church bells and a deep, sleepy drone. It is then joined by glitchy beats low in the mix as Samson sings. The synths wail and haunt as the song draws out its crescendo. The album is now in its final stages in terms of the number of tracks, but Samson has selected three longer 6+ minutes tracks to draw out the send off. ‘When I Was A Mountain’ is icy cold organ haunts, vocals and bass as well as some light noise and reverb–effected snare drums. ‘Suspended In’ is the longest track on Ground Luminosity and is a beautiful drone as Samson strives to suspend and elongate this beautiful record. The strings return towards the end and are truly triumphant, enlightening and inspiring. If you listen to everything in sequence, these are magical moments. ‘Night Canyon’ draws things to a close, opening with fragile electro–acoustic guitar moving to strings and vocals.
•••• This is a very strong record that we’ll be returning to regularly over the winter months — we can’t recommend it highly enough.
|Ground Luminosity (2015)|