Album Reviews

Gwilym Gold – A Paradise

(Brille) UK release date: 21 August 2015

Gwilym Gold - A Paradise Back in 2009, Gwilym Gold’s band The Golden Silvers released one of the most precocious debut albums by a British band in years. Following hot on the heels of winning Glastonbury’s New Talent competition a few months before, True Romance was a collection of startling confidence, combining ELO-like symphonic pop, disco and ’80s funk with memorable melodies and lyrics stuffed with colourful, quirky images from Greek mythology to produce songs that defied easy classification while remaining highly accessible.

After setting the bar so promisingly high, one might have expected The Golden Silvers to build upon True Romance with an even better second album, but instead they promptly disappeared. Gold re-emerged two years later with his ingenious but baffling Tender Metal solo album. A far cry for the joyful exuberance of his previous group, the project was released via Bronze, a pioneering app devised by Gold and producer Lexx in partnership with scientists from Goldsmiths which reinterpreted each of the seven tracks differently each time it was played. Groundbreaking perhaps, but not exactly conducive to garnering wider appeal.

A Paradise sees Gold reinventing himself again to adopt a position somewhere between his two previous guises; not as radio-friendly as the Golden Silvers but without the excessive conceptual challenges of Tender Metal. Much of the material was composed by Gold alone at home at the piano, before he took the songs to co-producer and longtime collaborator Lexxx to record them over the course of a year.

Despite this seemingly painstaking gestation, the songs on A Paradise remain simple at their core, with the months of effort clearly focusing on texture and tone. Understated orchestral embellishments are provided by contemporary composer of the moment Nico Muhly, who boasts collaborations with Antony And The Johnsons and Bonnie Prince Billy alongside his substantial classical oeuvre.

Opener A Greener World sets the template for what’s to come with its slow, deliberate piano notes and ghostly, hovering strings soon joined by Gold’s yearning falsetto. Immediately, the inescapable comparison to later period Radiohead looms large and it’s something that never really goes away over the next 40 minutes. The scuttling electronic rhythms on tracks like Breathless and Triumph are pure Kid A, although the influence of two of A Paradise’s other contributors – melodic dubsteppers Darkstar and Hyetal – are also in evidence. It’s all terribly clever but also, regrettably, often rather boring.

The biggest problem with the album is its frustrating inability to truly capture the listener’s attention. Breath Alone kicks off promisingly, with an insistent beat oddly reminiscent of Vangelis‘s Chariots Of Fire theme, but is soon let down by its gloopy, insipid melody. Flex and Muscle are both much better, capturing some of the achingly hip 3am soulfulness of James Blake, but it’s not long before the shapelessness returns on Unknown and Evergreen.

Closing track I Know, I Know gives a fleeting, tantalising glimpse of the bursting tunefulness that was once Gold’s trademark as he implores us “don’t go changing things around”. It’s a shame he doesn’t heed his own advice. The skill involved in composing and producing A Paradise is not in question, but a little less cerebral meandering and bit more fun really would go a long way here.

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