Old Master’s folky beginnings disguise bigger ambitions before it unravels, subsequently soaring like a Ben Howard number from his own impressive second album, ‘I Forget Where We Were’.
Hegarty’s captivating vocals are stunning throughout and the emotional vulnerability he creates is mesmerising. Perhaps the best portrayal of his ability to enthral with little more than his trembling voice arrives with the fragility of Can’t You See, a cut that sees his vocal skills emerge from a gentle, minimalist mist. The grandiose Modern World is also home to a jaw-droppingly blissful performance.
The gorgeous Elijah is one of the album’s most impressive moments, its gentle acoustics blending with wispy backing vocals to produce a nailed-on candidate for the TV advert treatment. The up tempo On A Midnight Street, meanwhile, benefits from a splash of cinematic ‘80s glitz.
The album’s final two tracks encapsulate the overall mood in a serene microcosm. Firstly, the haunting, delicate Glacier conveys its sorrowful message, “It’s all right to give up”, before the closer, When The Light Hits The Water, recalls the beguiling qualities of Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work with an exquisite combination of subtle piano and strings.
There is effortless bewitchment stamped on ‘Temple’, and the ability it has to create a feeling of total relaxation is astonishing. It’s a stronger collection overall than ‘Other Rivers’, despite perhaps lacking some of its magic, and provides proof that Matthew and the Atlas are beginning to create an impressive legacy of beautiful music.
The strong run of songs that open the album linger somewhat around the mid-rift, the title track is just as strong as the openers, dedicating emphasis on textures that surround the guitar parts, once again juxtaposing big choral sections with the moorish atmospherics. String sections are introduced as thrashing guitars add a new dimension to the previously titled British Bon Iver. This feels closer to the notion that Matthew and the Atlas want to outline their own sound within the Communion Records collective. However, as we turn to the likes of ‘Elijah’ and ‘Old Master’, songs weaken around the archetypal finger-picked styled guitar and melancholic sorrow that is so horrendously wishy-washy at times. It is where the lack of sincerity comes through, partially due to the nature of Hegarty’s voice, it is big, loud and unrestrained, it doesn’t seem to find the same comfort and positioning in delicacy as is it does with the robust. The songs themselves feel a little too beige and mimicking of other bands that may have introduced the onslaught of nu-folk back at the turn of the decade. You have been given the inclination and notion that the group can pinpoint their own experiments within the sound and therefore it feels slightly lacklustre as they fall back on previous incarnations.
‘Modern World’ and ‘Mirrors’ are testament to this fact. Matthew and the Atlas find their grounding here and their true spirit as a group; it lives and breathes emotion, soul and sincerity, something they were previously criticised for missing. Sections build and pulsate, it strikes with tension and honesty suggesting that their real tenderness is so often in line with riffs rather than between them. The textures that Hegarty builds within ‘Can’t You See’ is in compliment to how he has developed as a writer, no longer afraid to break the shackles of his folk titling. The climax of the album, ‘When the Light Hits the Water’ sees Matthew find his most glorious, and personal, uttering references to missing a certain somebody whilst surrounding his own distinctive voice within eerie string atmospherics; jarring textures juxtapose his voice and ultimately, bring about all those feelings that humanity seeks from music.
Matthew And The Atlas in Deutschland:
08.05.16 Berlin, Badehaus
09.05.16 Köln, Yuca
23.07.16 München, Milla