Keaton Henson: Monument review – A sobering and raw account of grief

Fri, Oct 23, 2020, 05:45

   
 

Album:
Monument

Artist:
Keaton Henson

Label:
Play It Again Sam

Genre:
Alternative

Keaton Henson’s latest album is an exploration of the “monument” that was his father, and his father’s illness (he died two days before the completion of the record).

It is, in many ways, a sobering and raw record, full of compositions that Henson felt weren’t “necessarily for anyone else to hear”, but as he moved through the process, enlisting Radiohead’s Philip Selway on drums and percussion, Leo Abrahams for guitars, and Charlotte Harding for saxophones, his confidence grew.

His confiding voice yearns across the album, mirroring the vulnerability present on each song, from the intricate guitar on Self-Portrait – a “prayer uttered into the ground” – to the warm but understated organ on the beautiful Ontario.

This is a quiet piece of work, without much divergence, yet While I Can is possibly as directly anthemic as Henson gets, and Husk is the opposite of its title in its richness; however, it is really through the understated, two-part Prayer, with its mournful chords and soaring orchestral section, that Henson’s sensibility is distilled. Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell and Perfume Genius’s Learning are surely reference points, or at least in touching distance, at different turns.

Lo-fi electronics and wonky home-video audio clips weave throughout, bringing a sense of nostalgia, childhood and biography to the work – and through seeking to capture his loss and consequent grief, he memorialises someone and something completely fundamental.