Rare solo album sees the Lone Swordsman in fine voice… quite literally
Is it really over a decade since Weatherall first sang on his records? His debut vocal outing was on Two Lone Swordsman’s ‘From The Double Gone Chapel’ in 2004, and through thick beard and thin, graduating from simple barked phrases to proper songs on 2009’s solo album ‘A Pox On The Pioneers’, he’s been singing his heart out ever since.
Adding his distinctive vocal wasn’t the only shift in the world of Weatherall. As a producer and remixer, his closest relationships had traditionally been with indie, dub and electro. But as a DJ and tastemaker he’s taken frequent trips into post-punk, punk-funk and rockabilly. Branching out from Two Lone Swordsmen in 2008, he headed The Boardroom collective then formed The Asphodells with Timothy Fairplay. Both sounded like nothing he’d done before, and yet, in their mix of styles familiar to long-term Weatherall watchers – techno, electro, dub, sci-fi disco and scuzz-rock – like everything he’d done before.
All of which leads us to the door of this, his first solo album since the song-friendly ‘A Pox On The Pioneers’. It follows hot on the heels of last month’s hauntological Woodleigh Research Facility album, made with long-time cohort Nina Walsh; indeed the opener here, a brief spoken word fragment, is pure Ghost Box. Walsh also crops up on ‘Convenanza’ in a vocal as well as collaborative capacity, lending weight to a sense of a his ’n’ hers continuity across the two early-2016 releases.
Nevertheless, while the Woodleigh album marked a detour into the kind of chilly electro beloved of Dopplereffekt, ‘Convenanza’ (named, like his annual festival in France, after a Weatherall artwork) is a more inviting affair. Its tasteful blend of influences – nothing to scare the horses here – harking back to the Weatherall of The Boardroom and The Asphodells while drawing together the various strands of a 25-year career.
So when ‘Intro’ blends into ‘Frankfurt Advice’ and the album starts in earnest it is with five minutes of prime Weatherall, as good as anything he’s put out in the last decade. Propulsive, beefy and bass-heavy, with its next-door horn parts giving it a timeless feel, it’s a sparkling cousin of The Asphodells’ favourite ‘Beglammered’ and a superb start. After that the songs begin – ‘Confidence Man’, ‘The Last Walk’, ‘Kicking The River’ – during which Weatherall allows his vocals to do much of the heavy lifting.
Herein lies the key to your enjoyment of the album. When Walsh crops up on ‘Disappear’, ‘We Count The Stars’ and the ruminative closer ‘Ghost Again’, her ghostly vocals lie deep in the mix, but Weatherall stays front-and-centre throughout. His is not a great voice by any stretch of the imagination. Nor does he have the same creativity with vocal melody as he does with a tune. If you like his vocals, come on in, the water’s fine. If you don’t, you may want to do a bit of judicious downloading.
But that’s latterday Weatherall for you: idiosyncratic to a tee, ploughing his own furrow. As with The Fall – not surprisingly, one of his favourite bands – you may not like what you get, but you get what you’re given.