Andrew Hamilton: Joy review – Charting direct line to beginnings

Fri, Aug 7, 2020, 05:00



Andrew Hamilton



The dominant images of composer/performers come from the 19th century: Liszt making listeners swoon. Paganini provoking tales that he was in league with the devil. Andrew Hamilton has written some devilishly virtuosic things in his time, such as the vocal dazzle for Michelle O’Rourke in music for people who like art that featured on his first album.

The six works on Joy, his new album on which he doubles up as singer and violinist, can by contrast sound disarmingly homespun. The comparisons that come to mind are Ivor Cutler singing to his own accompaniment, or Robert Wyatt and Carla Bley singing John Cage on one of the albums on Brian Eno’s short-lived Obscure label.

Hamilton says the pieces “chart a direct line back to my beginnings as a musician – I was an annoying child who was always singing and at seven I started learning the violin”. And he describes them as “my most direct and personal – they deal with love, art, the horrors of learning solfège, breaking voices, and memory”. They have something of the effect of someone standing too physically close who is telling you things they shouldn’t.

Pay attention to the words (“I’m the spirit of art . . . I should be listened to”) and also check out the promotional video by Emma Martin on