30 April 2013

Ardentjohn - Waiting for the Season

Album Review: Ardentjohn - Waiting for the Season (self-released)

Waiting for the Season is the second album from Edinburgh/London-based Ardentjohn. The indie-folk collective are no strangers to Peenko having featured as the site's inaugural Scots Wah-Hay way back in February 2010. Now the fine folks in Ardentjohn have sent over their second album for scrutiny.

The album open with the title track and immediately the rich, crisp guitar grabs your attention. The depth to the overall sound is impressive, with some distant harmonies fading in and out, while a steady beat comes in. Another guitar and bass come in as the song builds. It's quite breathtaking and uplifting, feeling yourself lifted by the music as it literally sparkles. The vocals add yet another dimension, being sparse in terms of lyrics but rich in their delivery. It's a cracking opener and bodes well for what is yet to come. 'In The Morning' starts with lovely strings and guitar. The tempo is nice and steady and again the music is just stunning. The tone is pitched just right. Strings add a note of melancholy, before the rhythm section kicks the pace up notch and lifts the song to a new plateau. 

'I Hear You' starts in quite a sunny mood. The guitar is again quite refreshing, while the second guitar stretches out it's notes, giving some depth. The vocal is emphasised more on this track and is simply stunning. It's powerful and fragile at the same time and rightly allowed centre stage in this beautiful song. Some subtle harmonies come in a serve to accentuate that feeling. The drums come to the fore on 'Don't Let Me Lose Your Hand'. Aided by the bass, they get the track off to a good start before strings and guitar add some depth. The song gets a nice change of pace on the chorus and tucked away in there is a really great guitar line. Vocally it's again very strong. Slightly different vocally from the previous track, it just serves to highlight how good a singer Keiron Mason really is. 'Apart (Don't Dream Me Bad)' slows things down again. Drums are more undertsated and there's even an accordion in there. The guitar again stands out. Although picking out notes and appearing to be fairly simple in it's delivery it really does add a lovely dimension to the sound.

'Sky Is Opening' begins with a really nice vocal that wouldn't go amiss on a Fleet Foxes song. Delivered acapella for the first thirty seconds or so, the song builds slowly behind it with some meaty drums and a very nice guitar. It settles into it's groove and skips along at a nice pace, with the drums sounding nice and solid thrroughout. I did expect it to build and burst into an explosion of sound but the control is maintained and in a weird way reminded me of some of Paul Weller's really great b-sides back when he was at his peak (in my opinion). It's a song to stick on loud and just close your eyes for six minutes or so and go on a journey. Loved it. 'Lady of the Wood' is more folk than anything and opens with a great tempo. Led by strings and guitar, ably accompanied by the rhythm section, my toes were tapping immediately. Again Keiron Mason's vocals sound wonderful. He has a rich voice that can convey different emotions and convey ideas and his voice demands your attention. Meanwhile, he and the band weave a wonderful tapestry of fantastic music that you can lose yourself in.

'Blizzard' opens with some lovely guitar and a steady rhythm section. Slower in tempo than previous songs, it was incredibly uplifting. When the vocal comes in, there's almost an echo. I couldn't quite decide it was a backing vocal, or if the lead vocal was overdubbed (hey, I'm no sounds engineer!). Regardless of which, it sounded great. Sprinkled throughout the song are lots of little subtle moments that add up to a song that fairly sparkles. There seemed to be a fuzzy edge to the production that further added to the overall sound. 'Now' builds on a really nice acoustic guitar line which rises out of the darkness. There are some electronic sprinkles in the background that flit in and out, before the electric guitar comes in to assist. It's a good, stedy tempo. When the vocal comes in, it really stands out. Slow, steady and rich. A touch louder than the guitars, it really resonates. It really draws you in and holds your attention. Musically, there's lots of nice touches flitting back and forth but it's the vocal that steals the show. 

Final track 'Sleeping Soldier' begins with a bell chiming, before a nice bass kicks in. Underneath are drums and guitars. Slow and steady is the order of the day here, with a slide guitar stretching out notes which wash across the track. The othe guitar dances around, creating texture as that bass pounds out the tempo. Again, it's a varied and full sound being created by the band. This track, as with every other on the album is a finely crafted piece of music. Under the surface od each song beats a complex heart. Layer upon layer of nuance fit together like a fantastic aural jigsaw. Each song washes over you and you can find yourself getting lost in the music and that doesn't happen to me nearly as much as I'd like it to. Here, every song seemed to do that. There's really no aspect of it that didn't thrill me. It's a truly wonderful album and deserves a wide audience.

Waiting for the Season is out now on CD and download and can be picked up from the band's official website on CD, or iTunes and Amazon as a download.

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