Vashti Bunyan - Lookaftering
And we all thought the Stone Roses kept us waiting. A mere 35 years since the release of her debut album, Just Another Diamond Day, Vashti Bunyan returned in 2005 with her second album. Recorded and produced by composer Max Richter, it also features admirers from the "laptop folk" brigade, such as the brilliant Adem, and Adam Pierce of Mice Brigade. This is an extremely tender collection of songs, beautiful, fragile and timeless.
The story of Bunyan is an interesting one. Her debut album was produced by Joe Boyd, best known for his record label "Witchseason" and his work with Nick Drake. However, like Drake, it was a commercial disaster, receiving little attention. The effect this had on Nick Drake is well known, but thankfully Vashti approached this with a more pragmatic mind. She retreated from the music business, moving to the country, spending the next thirty years or so raising children and rearing animals.
For many from the heady days of the late 60's and early 70's, that would have been it, their brief flirtation with fame merely memories and pages of a scrapbook. But for Vashti, she left behind a legacy, mostly due the music but also down to the enigma created by her past and her disappearance. The characters in Mark Radcliffe's excellent novel about the folk scene, "Northern Sky", often talk about doing a "Vashti", performing a disappearing act never to be seen again. Interest from the current generation of folk artists has seen her debut album re-released on CD, and now this follow up album.
And it is certainly worth the wait. This is a marvellous collection of songs that evoke feelings of peace and tranquillity as you listen, soothing music with a real inner beauty. It has a timeless quality, sounding as if it has always existed, yet at the same time fresh and bright. Vashti voice is wonderful, soothing yet vibrant, sometimes small and fragile but always compelling.
Opening track Lately sets the scene well, gently picked guitar with a haunting oboe solo by Rebecca Wood. Here Before is greatly enhanced by glockenspiel (played both backwards and forwards) and a childlike rhythm played on wineglasses. Vashti Bunyan's guitar work throughout is wonderful, gently picking out the melody amid Richter's arrangements. The songs are never crowded out by sound, always given room to breath, space between the notes bringing life to the tracks.
Other highlights include Turning Backs - opening with a dramatic piano piece set against a mellotron, it also features a light trumpet accompaniment by Robert Kirby, who worked on her debut album and is also best known for his outstanding work with Nick Drake. He also plays french horn on Feet of Clay, which benefits from a beautiful string arrangement, Kirby's melodies drifting in and out amid the gentle guitar.
This is a wonderful album, full of beauty. The songs are warm and tender, beautifully sung and performed. It seems like the kind of album where nothing has been rushed, where the songs have been allowed to evolve and develop, where speed was never of great importance. Whether we have to be patient for another 35 years for the next album, I really don't mind - I am sure it would be well worth the wait.