Friend of the stars turns in hit and miss album of ambient electronica
Let’s start with some positives: on paper, producer and guitarist Leo Abrahams has great credentials. He’s collaborated with Paolo Nutini and composed film soundtracks with David Holmes, and worked with Pulp, Roxy Music and Antony And The Johnsons. This album alone features Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint on drums, a Brian Eno guest vocal, and collaborations with Karl Hyde and Leafcutter John.
Abrahams is nothing if not a great networker. Sadly, in today’s febrile media-dominated music world, dropping names such as Eno and Hyde often seems to mean more than the actual music. Forget everything that we are told to believe is important – the PR spin and the hyperbole and all the superfluous ephemera – and focus on the work itself. Which, unfortunately, doesn’t hold up all that well.
The first sign of trouble, in addition to the name-dropping and the avid networking, was Abrahams’ back catalogue. He’s made four albums previously and all have been very diverse: folk (2008’s ‘The Grape And The Grain’), art rock (2007’s ‘The Unrest Cure’), ambient electronica (2006’s ‘Scene Memory’) and straight-ahead songs (2013’s ‘Zero Sum’). Yes, in the hands of some polymath genius this diversity could signal an enviable elasticity or the Midas touch.
However, ‘Daylight’ appears to be a diluted mish-mash of vaguely ambient electronica that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Indeed, midway through the opening title track, Abrahams peppers us with machine gun-like rock guitar riffs. He’s obviously trying to be experimental and lateral – there’s a reference in the notes to 1960s Chinese ink art and the idea of making music out of chance events – but I’m afraid it doesn’t work.
I wasn’t sure about it on first listening, but now after a few plays I’m convinced it’s not at all right. ‘Daylight’ is an album that made me think of the old adage, “you’ve got to know the rules in order to break them.” If your songs aren’t strong and focused in the first place, they’ll just come out like an amorphous unremarkable mess. And I’m afraid a lot of this album feels like backing tracks.
Perhaps I’m being harsh, certainly if there was one cut that charmed me it was ‘Halo Effect’, which reminded me of Japan’s oblique arthouse funk. But one track does not a summer make. Ultimately, ‘Daylight’ just isn’t compelling enough to stand alone as an album.