2023 studio album
Ben Walker says of his latest release, Banish Air from Air, that he is sharing his attempt at making sense of a world that seems upside down, in which humans are small and temporary. Much of the three years spent developing the album encompassed the lockdown era, a time when many of us became more contemplative and connected to nature.
The resulting work is a succinct and sublime collection of songs and tunes that address the elements of our universe using both original composition and traditional source material in a seamless manner.
Walker’s credentials as a producer of some seventy records are distilled into this beautifully recorded album, only his second as a solo artist. The crisp presence of his masterful fingerstyle guitar is omnipresent throughout the procession of tracks; sometimes at centre-stage in the instrumental tracks and other times complemented proportionately with strings, electronica, interstatial found-sounds and guest vocals.
Starlings is a landmark moment, as the mesmeric spectacle of murmuration becomes an audible portrait (the accompanying video by Marry Waterson is breathtaking and worth seeing). Equally, the onomatopoeic Showers on Ascension Day and muted hornpipe themes woven into Neptune convey their meanings effectively to the listener.
The title track Banish Air from Air is a setting of Emily Dickinson’s poem about the physics of gases and marks the start of a thematic journey through nature, land, sea, weather, light and concluding ultimately at Kepler and Sol, an original song describing the innate music of the universe itself - "a note too deep and slow for human ears".
Walker’s address book has produced an enviable list of guest vocalists; Sophie Jamieson, Nancy Kerr, Emily Mae Winters, Louis Brennan, Lucy Alexander, Sam Lee and Kirsty Merryn all lend their distinctive sound to the songs they feature upon. The source material of the tracks themselves provides stimulus for the curious-minded; The Way Through The Woods is a ballad drawn from Rudyard Kipling’s writing, whilst the trad-inspired lyrics of King Storm are credited to Roud 7001.
The lyrics of There Will Come Soft Rains felt so familiar upon first listening; perhaps because the original poem by Sara Teasdale, published in Spring 1918 as a subtle observation upon the futility of WW1 has subsequently been utilised by sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury in his 1950 dystopian short story of the same name. Sam Lee’s vocal timbre lends the perfect nostalgic aura to this eloquent accusation of humanity and the sentiment aligns perfectly with the album’s manifesto.
Banish Air from Air is a powerful 40 minute feast to nourish all of the senses. Be sure to give it your full attention.Angela Stock
Released on CD and digital download on 24th February 2023 by Folkroom Records.
1. Banish Air from Air (feat. Sophie Jamieson)
3. The Way Through The Woods (feat. Nancy Kerr)
4. The Yews of Borrowdale (Emily Mae Winters)
5. Eggshells (feat. Louis Brennan)
7. King Storm (feat. Lucy Alexander)
8. Showers on Ascension Day
9. There Will Come Soft Rains (feat. Sam Lee)
10. Northern Lights
11. Kepler and Sol (feat. Kirsty Merryn)