Ben Watt, best known as one half of Everything But The Girl (with Tracey Thorn), returns to his initial starting point as a solo singer-songwriter. Fever Dream is an intimate set of traditional songcraft, recorded with help from musicians including M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger. Released on Watt’s own Unmade Road label.
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Ben has stated in the run-up to Fever Dream’s release that these songs were deeply inspired by the Hendra release and its reception, the comprehensive touring and the rediscovery of his voice after 31 years of non-solo work and dj-ing. He felt compelled to write more. I’m glad he did.
The record continues where Hendra left off, with ‘Gradually’ containing Ben’s musings on middle age and hazy reminiscences underpinned by Bernard Butler’s always ravishing guitar. ‘Between Two Fires’ is more of the slightly Eagles-y MoR which has characterised Ben’s work of late, but Bernard’s guitar! Truly a beautiful thing, and with barely a Knopflerism detectable this time. ‘Winter’s Eve’ is a slice of autumnal chamber-folk which is Best Ben mode, and comes on more than a bit Midlake circa ‘Occupanther’. It’s short and sweet and very pleasant. By the time track 5 rolls around I’m struck with the realisation that Watt’s voice is a very easy-to-live-with thing indeed.
‘Faces of My Friends’ is a companion piece to ‘Never Forget’ from Hendra, with its gorgeous melodiousness and smoky production. I only wish I had my feet up by a real wood fire and a pint of chocolate stout in my hand. Aaah… Well, yes and no; I actually still really wish he would make deep house again and re-start up his Lazy Dog club nights. But we’re none of us getting any younger, are we? Win some, lose some. “Drop the tempo to 118, that’s how we celebrate… these are the last days of disco, until the new days of disco..”, Ben gets all wistful on ‘Running with the Front Runners’... Aha, Ben’s reminiscing about his halcyon house days; maybe a pointer that he misses them too?
‘Bricks and Wood’ is a beautiful song about a house. This is one of those records that just gets better and better as it goes along. As it spins. So that, as the final track ‘New Year of Grace’ arrives with the haunting vocals of ‘fairy-tale princess’ (copyright Phil) Marissa Nadler, I’m missing it already. Still love you Ben. And Bernard. And Marissa.
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