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5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, bewitching, destinctive and almost peerless, 13 Sep 2009
This review is from: Laura (Audio CD)
I discovered Benjamin Wetherill after getting into David Thomas Broughton (another alternative artist from Leeds). Wetherill's music is just as dark, eccentric, and haunting as Broughton's, but while the latter is minimalist and sometimes a tough listen, this album is warm, multi-instrumental, and very beautiful indeed.

It could be described as a sort of chamber folk with hints of classical, orchestral, and Eastern European gypsy folk. The latter influence is not surprising, given the presence of some very good Hungarian musicians. That said, this sounds like the work of a characterful, quirky Englishman. Wetherill's soft, melancholy, slightly fragile, warbling vocal, minimal piano, and gentle, emotive guitar is matched by some equally excellent clarinet, flute, violin, and bass from the session musicians. Extra depth and atmosphere comes from some samples and background noises, such as bird song, which are woven very easily into the fabric of each track. The one slight exception to that is the odd whistling effect on "Blackwaterside", which is a little distracting but ranks as the only minor annoyance in an otherwise stunning and unique work.

This is not an album for people who would normally only listen to uplifting pop music. This is an album that suits people who find pop anything but uplifting. The lyrics are intense, dark, and emotional and Wetherill sings them with feeling. Perhaps its most outstanding track ends the album: "Oh Sorrow", with a gorgeously plucked guitar in the intro that moves into a dark and rich piece of music that builds in intensity and features double bass and violin along the way. Or my favourite may be "Ada", which has an emotive and melodic clarinet, later accompanied by a softly played trumpet. "Folds in the Curtain" moves from guitar to violin to organ and back to guitar, almost seemlessly. It's another great bit of composition. "Kissing Under Poplars" ends with a positively spooky trumpet refrain, but by way of contrast, that is followed by a comparatively summery flute and guitar combo in "A Willowing". "How Lonely the Moon" is also a standout piece for me: partly instrumental, with laid back guitar, organ and a tuneful whistle. Lovely.

A year has passed between buying this album and reviewing it, probably because I have been too busy admiring it during many repeated plays, late at night with headphones, which is how this finely crafted album is best enjoyed. I do not often wax lyrical about anything, but this one leaves me struggling for appropriate superlatives. An unreserved five out of five.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Laura, 7 Nov 2010
This review is from: Laura (Audio CD)
Whichever way you cut it up, this is a great collection of songs, but the structuring of the album is what makes it a masterpiece of the form. Beginning with the hopefulness of "For All the Headlines" the mood of the album seems as if it will be a joyful one. From then on you never know what emotion you're going to get and the album wavers between brightness and darkness (take that as a metaphor for life if that's what you're into). The lyrics paint pictures of wronged men aching with insipient spite to return these wrongs. The album reaches its ominous and murderous climax in "Oh Sorrow" and you know you've just heard something moving, but you don't know which way to be moved. Overall the album is emotionally inconsistent, ambiguous and unsettling, which is everything I think an album should be.

Benjamin Wetherill is one of the most progressive musician I have heard (I'd rank him with Radiohead and Tom Waits), and I hope this review tips a few people over the edge into buying it.
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Laura by Benjamin Wetherill (Audio CD - 2014)
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