Donal Dineen’s Sunken Treasure: Vashti Bunyan’s Lookafterling

Vashti’s voice plays the starring role in this quiet triumph

What strikes me about the remarkable gap of 35 years between Vashti Bunyan's debut LP and her second album Lookafterling are the similarities between the two. The links are obvious. It's a conversation continued.

Some friends are able to pick up where they left off with ease no matter how great the intermission. So it is with these remarkable records. They’re real close.

There are so many connections musically and thematically that make nonsense of the age between them. The song remains the same. It's the audio and sonic changes of four decades worth of technological innovation which sets them apart. It's like watching a hazy but beautiful picture come sharply into focus. The clarity of sound in Lookafterling is a treat.

The legendary Joe Boyd did a customarily fine job on the debut. It’s wistfully captured. It creates a colourful veil of loveliness round Bunyan’s uncommonly peaceful voice. It blossoms as a result. Her delicate melodies are couched warmly by the simple and unobtrusive sounds of a string quartet. Vashti’s voice is the star. Nothing jars and any hints of darkness are kept well at bay.


This is not music for everyone. Its unfettered beauty could be cloying to those not in the mood for such a mellow sound. But for ears who delight in pastures whimsical and otherworldly, these records are a delight.

Max Richter was the perfect choice to take the reins upon her return. It must have taken a mentor’s skill to coax such quietly commanding performances from Bunyan. His pristine production is uncluttered and bright. He had a plethora of star musicians at his disposal and while he elicits superb contributions from all he never overemphasises or relies too heavily on any one element.

With Joanna Newsom in your team it would be easy and tempting put the giant harp centre stage but instead he concentrates on orchestrating the elements so Vashti can softly steal the show every time. She does this with grace. It’s a triumph but a quiet one, of course.