Following the sad passing of Mark Hollis earlier this year we all collectively turned back towards the impressive career arc of his band Talk Talk. Referenced less was his self-titled solo album released in 1998. It didn't help that the record was out of print at the time, but this re-issue is a chance to wallow again in the intimate grooves of a record that was initially intended to be released under the Talk Talk moniker. It is a gorgeous thing, full of woodwind, jazz-inflected drumming, pastoral guitar and Hollis's fascinating, mumbling verse. So quiet that you can hear the squeak of the musicians' chairs. Essential.
Vinyl LP £18.60 802880
Heavyweight vinyl reissue LP on Polydor, with original artwork – printed inner sleeve with lyrics and credits. Remastered at Abbey Road.
- Includes download code
Elsewhere this week our Phil has waxed lyrical about Talk Talk's swansong "Laughing Stock'. And so he should, its an absolute gem of a record and an essential purchase. Slightly less well known is front man Mark Hollis's self titled and only solo album released seven years later. An album which features not one but two bassoon players. I remember being beyond excitement when this came and listening back to it today with weathered ears it sounds even better than i remember it. The first track 'The Colour of Spring' is a complete red herring. Its gospel tones sat as awkwardly with me then as they do now. Instead hop straight onto track two the excellent 'Watershed'. Despite completely different musicians being involved, this follows the late Talk Talk template of gorgeous rhythmic drumming, picked guitar and seemingly random horns and woodwind. It differs in that its much more of an organic, woody sound with no electric guitar present. Hollis's vocals are as indistinct as ever, mumbling along then suddenly bursting out of the mix. On 'Inside Looking Out' the track starts with quiet Rachel's like piano before emerging into a foggy strum with Hollis's vocals playfully on top of the mix without the listener being able to discern a single word he is saying.
One of the standout tracks for me is 'The Gift' which pounds along with driving drums, carefully picked nylon stringed guitar and fabulous Danny Thompson-esque bass. Odd, discordant woodwind pull the track out of focus before it randomly and awkwardly regains momentum. The playing style is surely influenced by jazz, what is created is so subtle, tiny variations in the playing change the mood in an instant.
My favourite overall though is 'A Life (1895-1915)' which wanders along pleasantly for awhile before busting into the most amazing piano chords underneath which sit gorgeous cut up female vocals, after a horn led interlude the drums flit back in as if nothing happened with fabulous organ drones, wooden bass and chirping bassoons. This is gorgeous unforgettable music...and so it goes on.
Its amazing that Mark Hollis produced this record without the input of the two other Talk Talk members, it closely resembles the parent band in style and substance but it is different - at times its like Talk Talk unplugged - it lacks the wild mood swings, dynamics and changes in tempo of 'Laughing Stock' and its slightly more linear predecessor 'Spirit of Eden' yet still its a major work incredibly being able to stand up strong alongside those earlier albums.
10/10 Simon 8th November 2019
Perfection is an easy word to throw around. And beauty will always be in the ear of the beholder of course. Yet there are some albums that throw out convention and style and hold fast to a strong belief in purity and honesty which ,even if not your mug of tea, you can at least see / hear something unordinary and beautiful.
Enter this album. Mark has taken the promises of 'Spirit Of Eden' and 'Laughing Stock' and pushed the envelope one final time to bring us this quietest of storms. The ghosts of Gill Evens and Miles Davis can be heard between the breaths of Marks vocals and the shuffle of a seat. It's so painstakingly fragile that I'm amazed a vinyl reissue was even looked at! Surely the pops and surface noise will be louder than what was committed to the plastic! That I'm sure would have annoyed Mr Hollis who was more fascinated in what NOT to play than what to.
It doesn't really matter. What does is that an album such as this was created and offered up to the world from a composer who really wasn't that concerned if it was heard or not. I for one am lucky to have found this album and will treasure its beauty.
Thank you Mr. H.
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