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Ben Howard - Noonday Dream (Album Review)

Thursday, 07 June 2018 Written by Graeme Marsh

In the years following the release of his folky, acoustic debut ‘Every Kingdom’ in 2011 Ben Howard has sought to take up a far more experimental position. ‘Noonday Dream’, his third album, is proof of his revised aims and follows the magnificent ‘I Forget Where We Were’,  an LP that remains his benchmark by some distance.

Four songs were released prior to the arrival of ‘Noonday Dream’, beginning with A Boat To An Island On The Wall, a “patchwork” of a track that had been kicking around for some time in an incomplete form. The sprawling lead cut is split into two parts totalling in excess of 12 minutes, but the real interest lies with the opening segment.

Its acoustic start leads to a scattering of sound effects and instrumentation as it slowly develops. It takes a while to go anywhere of note, and threatens a big finale that ultimately doesn’t appear, but it serves as an interesting introduction and a primer on what to expect here.

Towing The Line was another early arrival, boasting a simple, yet gorgeous, chorus. Its acoustic presence is more akin to a modern day Nick Drake than Howard’s own guise when starting out, while album opener Nica Libres At Dusk is a lush, mellow affair. The quartet is completed by another album highlight in Murmurations, a cut that kicks into something resembling ‘I Forget Where We Were’ after three and a half minutes of ambling.

During a recent interview with BBC Radio 1, Howard discussed his admiration of Talk Talk, specifically the leftfield about-turn they made with 1988’s experimental ‘Spirit of Eden’.‘Noonday Dream’ follows a similar path. In fact, it isn’t until the soothing tones of Someone In The Doorway arrive five songs in that a more traditional structure appears.

Despite claims that the new album ended up sounding nothing like Talk Talk, its driving beat is reminiscent of Happiness Is Easy, lifted from ‘The Colour of Spring’, before moving into territory usually reserved for latter-day Radiohead. The Defeat ticks along pleasantly without ever promising much more, though, while What The Moon Does is sprawling, cinematic and in need of a more defined direction.

Howard felt no pressure to deliver his third album and that shows throughout ‘Noonday Dream’. The overall impression is one of serene relaxation, in a similar fashion to a Bon Iver record. At times, though, its songs lack an identity. They’re happy instead to meander along inoffensively, settling for experimentation in place of the wonderfully crafted tracks on ‘I Forget Where We Were’. It can occasionally become heavy going despite its charm, and it's destined to perhaps only reward the listener over time.

Ben Howard Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed June 13 2018 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Thu June 14 2018 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Thu June 28 2018 - EDINBURGH Edinburgh Playhouse
Fri June 29 2018 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Sat June 30 2018 - ST AUSTELL Eden Project

Click here to compare & buy Ben Howard Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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