Benjamin Shaw - There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet
It’s a difficult thing to sound special in amongst the rafts of artists peddling their particular take on folk music, with every man, woman and prodigal child having a go at it. Benjamin Shaw however, represents that slightly grubby and tarnished diamond that still shines through as being different from the rest. Having already released an EP (which secured a rather favourable review with TMF), Shaw has finally channelled all his cynicism and ingenuity into creating the brilliantly titled This Is Hope, This Is Cabernet.
Starting as he means to go on, with the self-deprecating charm and stuttering sounds of the opening title-track and the wonderful ‘How To Test The Depth Of A Well’, Ben shows himself to be both an adept songwriter and skilled musical architect. While his fragile vocals are the focus here, it’s the myriad of sounds he uses to supplement this that bring back to the songs again and again. From sprinklings of piano, mangled strings and marching-band drums he crafts a song that is warm, deep and full of joy in his inimitably dark way.
This is an atmosphere he sustains throughout, with the sparse and gentle ‘Interview’ taking in soft acoustic guitars and just a hint of violin. The choral synths of single ‘Somewhere Over The M6’ sound almost mellotron in sound, while what sounds like a malfunctioning toy beeps and whirs in the background. The lulling ‘Home’ starts off with simple, enchanting guitar lines before layer upon layer of melodic noise and static build up in the background, threatening to overpower Shaw’s guitar-playing.
As the slightly distorted piano and icy, heartbroken ambience of ‘Hulk’ disappears into the background and the sound of quiet scuffling closes out the album, you’re left hoping that there’s something more still to come. Shaw has put together an album that is quite unlike anything else, full of blackened charisma and a sonic imagination quite different to most.