Benjamin Shaw - Goodbye, Cagoule World
Benjamin Shaw's latest tortured creation is an album of bold perception and chaotic musicality. Growing up in Blackpool before shifting to England's citadel capital, his new work offers the sound of a young man burnt out, alienated and disgruntled by modern city life, feelings which in turn clearly breed exceptional creativity. Shaw has been no stranger to criticism and with Goodbye, Cagoule World, his contorted musings come good on his label's sales pitch of being 'specialists in commercial suicide'.
A competent multi-instrumentalist, the first sounds to emerge from opening track 'No One' is a perished recording of what sounds like a foreign class room of students repeating words until it imitates a chant. Shaw's strained violin breaks, strained in anguish over sinister piano chords and sample of rainfall. It's an effective opening to an unrelentingly bitter-sweet experience. The use of samples remain heavy in use throughout, elevating Shaw's already bleak atmospherics to the upper echelons of discomfort – a mid-century educational sample of 'How to get ahead in an office environment' is particularly effective given its relevance to current employment opportunities.
'Break the Kettles and Sink the Boats' is pitched as an acknowledgement of “dwindling expectations of critical and commercial reward,” yet it reads more like a poignant rejection of our place in the world. It's strangely uplifting given the hopeful acceptance in Shaw's voice which (forgive me here) sounds painfully humane as he decrees “One emotion is more than I need / But it comes with quotas and time is running out / So come burn some bridges with me / Because we're not long for this world anyway.”
As the album fights towards its bitter end, Shaw draws up poetic laments about hammering a dickhead's face on the sink, drops fourth wall breaking pop culture references and consistently proves the violin can be an ugly instrument in the right hands. Goodbye, Cagoule World is a messy, miserable comedown that may just provide the most beautiful moments you share with music all year.