Matt Donovan is not one for fanfares and his new album sleep until the storm ends may have been a year in the making but it was released without any advance notice the day before Charley picked up his new hat from Westminster Abbey. This understated attitude is not affectation but part of the personality of the man himself who eschews over-wordy press kits or multi-paragraphed Bandcamp blurb in favour of lowercase letters and the beautifully simple sentence “inspired by personal loss, war, inhumanity, love and hope”.
Let the music speak for itself and it does. This is Donovan’s third album release after habit formation and Underwater Swimming and once again he paints dreamy acoustic/electronic tracks with micro doses of psychedelia and shades of prog. Except for the woozy ballad ‘barefeet’ and megaphonic singing on environmental dub track ‘debris’ we have a set of instrumentals where the care and precision of the instrumentation and the mix make it a great album to listen to with headphones on.
‘warmer inside’ opens the album with flickering guitars and high cymbals that evoke the sound of sunlight refracted through gently rotating crystals. The soft merry-go-round continues with ‘passing ships’ which is an acoustic hug that would sit happily on a Steve Hackett album. ‘let the sun shine’ is a gear change into something that has the brooding tension of a Lalo Schifrin soundtrack with rumbling piano and solid drums as the rails that the constant eBow sound can ride on.
‘tip my hat’ has a soft-edged acoustic reggae vibe and ‘climb the rooftops’ is the sound of an electronic sunrise. The eBow on ‘the crying earth’ seems to give voice to the planet’s lament at the damage we’re doing it and ‘whale race’ is a blissed out ambient soundtrack to a subaquatic world. The final two tracks are ‘a sky full of hope’ which has an early morning haziness and barely leaves any footprints, and ‘night walking’ which sends us on our way with soft pulsing beats, mono-synth and electronic steel drums.
Matt Donovan shows no signs of allowing anything but the best songs out into the world. As a musician he plays all the instruments and produces his albums, but the music is never over-done, and the tracks feel very alive; they breath and float like heat haze above a road. To paraphrase Maya Angelou Matt seems to hope for the best and prepare for the worst and if we are going to sleep until the storm ends then this is the kind of music that I would want piped into my cryogenic capsule.
Album artwork by Steve Gubbins
Matt Donovan on Twitter
Review by Paul F Cook
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