Saturday, 5 June 2010

Vashti Bunyan - 'Just Another Diamond Day' (Spinney)

It's rare for a CD reissue to lead to such a resurgence at it did for Vashti Bunyan - this CD was issued about ten years ago (at least that's when I think I got it) and before you know it, she's been embraced wholeheartedly by the experimental community and is suddenly making records with Devendra Banhart and Animal Collective. I've not listened to a post-1970 note of Vashti Bunyan but I think it's an interesting pairing because there is nothing remotely experimental about Just Another Diamond Day. At least, what I like about this record is its simplicity. These are simple songs, some barely over two minutes, with singsong melodies and rural-pastoral observations only occasionally given any more than a twee/Sallyangie treatment. When it does, like when Dave Swarbrick contributes fiddle to 'Where I Like to Stand', it's a wonderful combination. Bunyan's voice is so upfront and genteel, and it's rather reverb-laden, yet at the same time it's a bit weird because she does actually sing in a kinda nervous, rushed way. These songs don't really breathe and when there are string arrangements they feel even more cramped, which I actually like, though I don't know if that's exactly what she was going for. Joe Boyd's production is up to his usual standards and his use of vocal reverb is positively Krameresque. Simon Nicol's banjo on 'Come Wind Come Rain' is jaunty and works well against the wordless aspects of her singing, and I think I like these bits, which at least have perceptible edges, against the total softness of the recorder-driven tunes. These days I feel little to connect with lyrically; obviously the rural imagery speaks to some philosophy in people that I don't completely get. I've spent my own time in the Hebrides, and there is no place more beautiful, but these are not traditional Hebridean songs at all - this is an Englishwoman constructing an identity. I'm still not really sure why this is considered to be such outsider music. The arrangements of Dolly Collins make her records with Shirley much more exploratory, in my opinion - apart from the slight awkwardness, Vashti Bunyan is a very traditional folk-based singer-songwriter. I'm not saying this to sound negative - because even though I haven't listened to this CD in about 8 years, it's been a pleasant thing to revisit. This is one case where bonus tracks don't help - the original album presumably ended on 'Iris's Song For Us', which is a perfect last wave, but the CD sticks four more songs. The last is another version of 'Iris's Song', but one that's stuck a bit in it's own suspended particles, and not quite as effective as the original. But I guess you gotta put bonus tracks somewhere!

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