ALBUM REVIEW: Ajimal – As It Grows Dark/Light | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Wow & Flutter

Released: 17.04.20

 

 

 

 

Image by Fraser Taylor

You’re reading a North East-based music magazine so chances are you may know the Ajimal back story. Doctor by day, spectral genius by night. Picked up the name in Haiti, just to add to the other-worldly vibe.

In a weird way though, it’s felt like having such a strongly defined story has been somehow harmful to how Ajimal is perceived as an artist. Like perhaps his art is perversely diminished due to what Fran O’Hanlon does with his days.

As It Grows Dark/Light may be the point at which this changes though, because while his debut record Childhood was a wonderful piece of work, this is truly breathtaking. It feels like the point where Ajimal truly realises the staggering potential he showed during those ethereal support slots years ago where he’d hush a small room into pin-drop silence.

As he matures as an artist, O’Hanlon is really mastering how to harness the power of his voice, and there’s a range of vocal versatility here we’ve not heard much from him before. Whether it’s the ghostly croon on Animals which somehow manages to channel both old school and more recent Scott Walker at once, or the lullabic whisper of Above All Else, Be Kind, the restraint he employs is devastatingly effective.

There’s incredible depth and texture to the arrangements too, most notably on the astonishing lead single How Could You Disappear, which resonates with buzzing synths and chopped-up beats and is absolutely nothing like anything Ajimal has ever released before. This low-key banger gives way into another of the album’s pivotal moments, the beautiful A Quickening Step, which hinges on a startlingly mournful sigh of brass, sounding like the terminal exhalation of tired lungs. A Rapture Coming, however, is probably the greatest achievement on an album filled with them. It’s here that O’Hanlon truly captures the duality hinted at in the record’s title, with his sinister murmur and the unnerving instrumental feeling both elegiac and creepy all at once. 

2020 has had a rough start, but with art like this in the world, we’ve got a fighting chance of coping.

 

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