The debut album ‘Episode’ by Ben Gregory is out now on Transgressive Records. ‘Transgressive’ – involving a violation of moral or social boundaries. A fitting word maybe for this work. At times it’s heartbreakingly delicate, at times the sounds crash together and very often it’s so personal you almost feel like an intruder listening to it.
The background to this album tells us: “It is impossible to separate Ben Gregory’s majestic, multi-faceted and emotionally wrenching debut solo album ‘Episode’ from a period of profound personal upheaval. In 2019 Blaenavon, the much-beloved band with whom he released two widely acclaimed albums, was dissolving. Not unrelatedly, Gregory was receiving treatment in psychiatric hospitals. ‘Everything on ‘Episode’ comes back to my struggle to interpret, or reinterpret, my life and its core relationships, after having my concept of reality revoked,’ he says. ‘This may sound dramatic, but it’s hard to know if you can trust how you feel about a partner, a situation, a future, when you’ve sat in a hospital bed, torn a newspaper to shreds, sat back and watched it put itself back together.'”
It’s important to understand this context. Each of the eight tracks on the album feels like a significant marker in Ben’s story. The opening track, ‘Storm of Conversation’, deals a crushing blow straight off the mark, but leads into intricate guitar and vocals. It’s a pattern you will enjoy throughout the album.
‘Blue Sea Blue’ is a ten minute wonder. It’s one of the most original tracks I’ve heard in a while and it feels brave to unleash it second in the running order. ‘Manifest*’ and ‘Smoke’ are also stand out tracks for me, the latter sounding almost like a lullaby Ben has written for himself. The fragile and beautiful vocals will make you listen intently.
‘Deathbed Hangover’ is as dark and tortured as it sounds while the final track, ‘God Bless You’ ends everything on a more hopeful note. My advice? Find a sunny corner, make a cup of tea and enjoy this one in full. You will come away feeling like someone has shared something very important with you.
Review by Breige Cobane