Tuesday, June 13, 2006

LEAFCUTTER JOHN: The Forest And The Sea

With the shenanigans in the house and me going off on holiday for a couple of weeks, this blog has gone rather quiet, but this doesn’t mean that I haven’t played or received any music. Amongst the albums I have received recently is the latest effort from London-based John Burton, AKA Leafcutter John.

LEAFCUTTER JOHN The Forest And The Sea (Staubgold, 2006)

The Forest And The Sea is John Burton’s third album under his Leafcutter John guise, his first for Berlin-based Staubgold. With his two previous albums, Microcontact (2001) and The Housebound Spirit (2003), both published on Mike Paradinas’s Planet-Mu imprint, and a handful of compilation appearances, Burton showcased an interesting approach to sound and music in the tradition of musique concrete and electro-acoustic movements of the second half of the twentieth century. Yet, he also hinted at a more accessible and straightforward approach on The Housebound Spirit, and found himself in completely uncharted territory on House Of A Soul where he ventured into singing for the first time.

This third album makes good use of both experimentations and fully formed songs and offers a wide array of contrasted sonic landscapes where a delicate acoustic guitar is often set on a collision course with far more elaborate and intricate processed found sound collages. If this is arguably not a groundbreaking approach, Burton manages to maintain the balance between both elements of the work with incredible pertinence. The Forest And The Sea is a very captivating piece, which, despite constant changes of focus, remains very coherent. The mood is generally toned down and introspective, with delicate poetic touches applied with great care.

The Forest And The Sea is also a concept album that tells the story of two people lost in a forest at night. Burton uses the story as a thread throughout the album rather than making it the primary focus. This allows for breathing spaces and time for the listener to enjoy his pastoral sonic constructions. While Burton creates abstract sound formations on Dream II or on the introductions to Maria In The Forest or In The Morning, he inject some cinematic moments with blissful melodies and delicate arrangements on Let It Begin, Go Back, Seba or Now.

While The Forest And The Sea represents a departure for Leafcutter John and showcases a more accessible side to his talent, it actually still clearly belongs with its predecessors. Beautifully crafted and cleverly assembled, this album is Burton’s most impressive and coherent release to date.

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