Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Beauty above the chimney tops: Paul Buchanan's Mid Air

Like the surprise return of some special, absent friend comes Paul Buchanan with his emotionally-captivating album Mid Air.

Beyond his own modest claims, these are songs of exquisite, heart-swelling beauty, with Buchanan's rich, restrained vocal filling the atmospheric spaces between soft, chiming piano and those still-sparsely familiar Blue Nile synths, brasses and strings.

The opening title track conjures the most simply compelling statement of love and wishful observation - "The buttons on your collar, the colour of your hair, I think I see you everywhere" - a perfection of lyrical brevity that resonates through every serenely-delivered track.

As short, imprinted songs, the less seems so much sublimely more.

Amongst the personally-loaded vignettes, Half the World flows in saddened, dreamlike testament to some unaccomplished humanity, slowly rising in mood  - "for the starlight in my suitcase" - and fading to a delicate poignancy of piano, while I Remember You - "I know exactly where you are" - invokes warm, lingering affections and memories of a still-cherished love.

Likewise, Buy a Motor Car, Two Children and Wedding Party allude subtly to life's little relationship pains, mind escapisms and landmark moments - fragments reminiscent of the Nile's heartfelt anthems Family Life, I Would Never and From a Late Night Train.

Summer's On It's Way also ambles wistfully to soft bass accompaniment, like a pared-down, child-like incantation of adult hope and expectation. Utterly beguiling.

And there's My True Country, a small poetic masterpiece of abstract longing and belonging that transcends the artifice of patriotism or place, inviting us, enigmatically, beyond - "dance along the edge with me" - and upwards to a 'land' of simpler, contented identification with all that's lovingly familiar and yearned for: "Far above the chimney tops. Take me where the bus don't stop."

Savour all the languid, laconic expressions of loss, love and desire as the quiet instrumental drama of Fin De Siècle gives way to After Dark and Buchanan's last gorgeously drifting harmonies.

Staggeringly beautiful in every sweet, nuanced line, every heart-touching note. A truly life-defining record.


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