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Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge
Label: Mute Records – P463 6992, Mute Records – 5099946369925, Parlophone – P463 6992, Parlophone – 5099946369925
Formats: CD, LP, Download
Country: UK & Europe
50’s styled Sheffield native Richard Hawley first came to light as a member of the Britpop band, Longpigs, after their demise he became a member of another more successful Britpop band, Pulp, being asked to join by fellow Sheffield local and friend Jarvis Cocker, this only lasted a short while before going solo in 2001 with two releases, one eponymous title and the other, Late Night Tales, but it wasn’t until a change of label to Mute Records and the 2005 release, Coles Corner, that he hit the wider consciousness of music lovers. Since then he has released 3 studio albums (including Standing At The Sky’s Edge) and a live concert recording which have all been very well received.
With Standing At The Sky’s Edge we see Richard change up his sound quite dramatically, mostly gone are the 50’s Rock & Roll stylings, close miked vocals, heartfelt songs, and warmth of tone in favour of what can be described as a bit of a modern Psyche workout. We now have heavily effected sounds and guitars, distant vocals, eastern tones, drawn out compositions and a wallowing rock rhythm backing the music. There is a taste of My Bloody Valentine and early Oasis here with the slow rocking feel. Permeating many of the tracks is a harder edge blues rock guitar showing from Richard which might come as a shock to listeners used to his more tonal, gentle and reserved guitar playing on previous albums. This is a much heavier sounding album from Richard but still with his slow burning style, the music pours into the room like a slow moving electric storm thats holding off from letting go its immense energy charge with Richards effected vocals barely breaking free from all the static and fuzziness. Though if you listen closely through all the noise you can hear that this is still a Rock & Roll album at its heart and very much a Richard Hawley album, the songs are arranged nicely and build with emotional impact the longer they go on, there are also a couple of less effected tracks on the album linking his earlier works to this new found songwriting electricity.
As you can guess from the above description this is a hazy, fuzzed out heavily electric sounding album but not electric as in Electronic but electric as the effected guitars, loads of reverb and feedback with their static charges bouncing around within the music creating a sonic soundwave in your listening room. But don’t think that the songs are totally lost with this barrage of noise, Richard Hawley’s songwriting skills are still very evident, there is nothing artificial and fake sounding about the music it definitely has the spontaneity of a band of musicians rather than a quantized sonic blast from a computer. I can also imagine the better resolving your HiFi system is the more it will be able to pick through the haze and reveal these compositions in full technicolour for a more immersive experience. I would recommend to turning it up to feel the full force of the 9 thoughtful compositions, this is an album that begs to be played loud and maybe thats what Richard wanted here, to let off some steam with a proper blowout musical session, hence the rather dramatic change in musical style from previous albums. But for people who have only been exposed to earlier material be prepared for a completely different Richard Hawley this time out, but still with his signature sound in there somewhere, its just not where you expect it to be.
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I knew nothing of this artist before this arrived for review, just a vague feeling I had listened to something by him on Spotify once.