For Charlie Jones, Love Form is an attempt at stepping out of the shadows and into the limelight. Robert Plant, Siouxsie Sioux and Goldfrapp have all required his services at some point in their careers. Described as a ‘musician’s musician’, Jones now releases a work of his own. The songs that make up Love Form were, for the most part, recorded in one take and any computers or modern synthesisers, samplers and the like were absent from the sessions.
Unfortunately, stealing the limelight can be trickier than it seems, and the end result here suggests that Love Form doesn’t do the job. This is not because Jones lacks talent, but because his compositions are often impervious. His jazz influences are prominent and there are some interesting sounds but – and this is where being a ‘musician’s musician’ has its downsides – this is an album that is likely to be admired rather than actively enjoyed.
The Messenger begins with slow drums and sparse plucks but a cacophony slowly builds. It takes its time to find its flow, features drawn-out guitar notes and scattered piano strikes but is too meandering. Big Hair rises and falls, bustles and cries but also misses the spot, as does the chamber hall-tinged Dove Magic, which is more ambient than the other pieces but still rather dull. It’s the title track that comes the closest to intrigue – piano that’s taken from a bar room, a quivering synth line and some tuneful whistling (from Alison Goldfrapp, no less). It’s not as grandiose as it thinks it is, but it is the most listenable thing by far in a first half that feels like the listening equivalent of trying to find a needle in a haystack.
However, the later tunes are something of an improvement. Phthonos is a track of two halves – out of control and claustrophobic before fading away into some soothing string arrangements. The arpeggiated, dreamlike and cinematic Silver contains the most tangible attempt at a melody on Love Form and yet doesn’t sacrifice its complexity. This momentum doesn’t last long though – Death Hand has a deadly looping bass but it has the potential to be so much better, whilst Reconstruction is a freewheeling closer that rumbles and warbles but doesn’t seem to have anything to say.
Jones is very capable of creating a mood that remains consistent throughout an LP but Love Form still turns out to be very hard work for the listener. There are brief glimmers of hope, but they evaporate as soon as they appear. It’s very easy, whilst listening to any of these eight songs, for the mind to wander. If such was the intent, then it is successful.