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At 23, Sam Howard has already set himself a difficult task in following up his raptly received debut album 'Ark', which he released as a mere nipper at the end of 2012. 'Love To Give' is a record which centres around the ex-choirboy's angelic voice, but there's a lot more to it than initially meets the eye, as he deftly throws around spiritual-sounding organs and warm electronica and dense foggy drones to make a bleak but uplifting collage that manages to soothe and surprise in equal measure. No mean feat.
Take 'Aria' for example, an hypnotic xylophone chimes away throughout but the backing varies from spiritual drones to watery almost dark ambient treated piano to an uplifting passage with a sweet live drum break and some lively piano tinkling. These crazily filtered piano sounds are great, hazy and dreamlike but also strangely piercing and waveringly soulful. He teases you with the drum break at first, but by the end of the track they're in full flow with some cracking fills, I like how the drums are so live and dry when everything else is all reverbed to hell too.
While this song is my immediate highlight and on occasion things do stray a little into drabness, the whole thing is at worst listenable and at best indulgently enjoyable, obsessively detailed and restlessly creative in a way which belies Howard's youthfulness.
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