ALBUM REVIEW: Ben Watt – Storm Damage | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Unmade Road

Released: 31.01.19






It’s perfectly reasonable to say that Ben Watt is something of a musical polymath. A genuine genre-fluid musician, from his debut jazz tinged solo records and his early acoustic albums with the wonderful Everything but the Girl, through to their later electronic explorations via his Buzzin’ Fly record label, he’s never been a chap to rest on his laurels.

After the demise of EBTG in 2000, Watt could have quite reasonably taken a step back and revelled in the success and respect earned over his 29 year career, instead, he dived headlong into a series of critically acclaimed solo albums and books that can now be viewed as a real high watermark in an already outstanding musical canon.

Following the award-winning Hendra (2014) and Fever Dream (2016), Watt returns in 2020 with Storm Damage. Stepping away from the twin-guitar approach of the previous two albums in favour of a more sonically audacious sound flavoured with, in Watt’s words “a future-retro trio” of upright piano, double bass and hybrid acoustic-electronic drums, set against a half-lit backdrop of lone analogue synths, spiralling echo spins and impressionistic ‘found sounds’ adapted from online public-domain recording archives, the result is a record that feels energised yet deeply intimate.

Lyrically lashing from heart-aching anxiety to middle aged acrimony at the world we live in and life in general, the new synthetics frame each track in a texture that add a genuine intensity without ever feeling gimmicky or a distraction from the finely crafted song at its centre – Summer Ghosts and Irene (featuring Low’s Alan Sparhawk) in particular, get the balance between electronics and traditional instrumentation absolutely bang on, with goose-bump inducing results. Storm Damage is without question his finest solo record to date.


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