Ben Watt: Storm Damage review – Thoughtful songs for unstable times

Thu, Jan 30, 2020, 12:00

   
 

Album:
Storm Damage

Artist:
Ben Watt

Label:
Unmade Road/Caroline International

Genre:
Singer / Songwriter

Former equal mainstay with his wife and songwriter/author Tracey Thorn of Everything but the Girl, Ben Watt has been through the proverbial wringer over the past four years.

Dealing with the sudden death of his half-brother in 2016 has been just one burden to shoulder. Factor in a form of stasis – “I got stuck for a year,” he has said, “angry inside and angry at the political world casually detonating around me” – and you have an eloquent songwriter looking at an increasingly unstable world.

Ben Watt - Figures in the Landscape

The sense, he reveals throughout the suitably titled Storm Damage, is that although feeling adrift there was still something, however slight, to hold on to. The same logic can be applied to the music, which differs significantly from Watt’s previous solo albums (2014’s Hendra, 2016’s Fever Dream) and is a world away from the heyday of EBTG.

He describes the sonic mood as “future-retro” – a gathering of double bass, upright piano, analogue synths, musique concrète, hybrid percussion and archive recordings. That may be fanciful, but Watt has a point: there’s a measured, spiritual jazz kick here that disturbs the undergrowth.

Synching well with his solo work on his Buzzin’ Fly label, thoughtful songs such as Balanced on a Wire, Figures in the Landscape, Sunlight Follows the Night and You’ve Changed, I’ve Changed shift gears into a smooth sixth. And away he goes.