Gravenhurst is the pseudonym for Bristol based multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Nick Talbot. “The Ghost in Daylight” is his, I think, sixth full length album and I will stick my neck out now: I doubt that we will hear a more beautifully sounding, atmospheric record all year. It is certainly the best record- full stop- that has been released on Warp Records in years.
Bit of background time. Nick Talbot has been producing music since the mid 1990s; his first record as Gravenhurst, the enigmatic “Silent Age”, came out at the start of the new century and was an acoustic led series of tracks inspired by murder balladry. During the past decade, Talbot has continued to thrill and delight, often in equal measure. Indie kids of a certain age will doubtless wax lyrical about his cover of Husker Du’s “Diane” which is one of those records where the cover version gives the original a pretty solid run for its money. Talbot‘s last full work, “The Western Lands” continued to mine his rich vein of introspection but with additional influences, notably My Bloody Valentine and Nick Drake at his most psychedelic.
Right from the off, and the beguiling strains of the really rather lovely “Circadian” through to the closing laments of “Three Fires”, this is serious and serious minded music. Although not a concept record, the album does have a central motif that it returns to time and again: namely, the emotional traces left on physical spaces by historical events. This is nowhere near as pompous and self regarding as my last sentence may have made it sound. On the contrary, the sense of place, displacement and physical surroundings is enhanced by Talbot‘s music which is, by turns, mournful, melancholic, enigmatic and utterly beguiling.
Not content with being a musician of serious talent, Talbot is a seriously gifted lyricist too. “On The Prize”, the album’s first single, there is a seriously evocative level of melancholy in the following: “as the house lights turn/reveal cigarette burns and the tide line/of last night’s cries of despair/that emanate from the underpass and echo back to anywhere/still the ties that bind us blind us to the emptiness of the prize”. You don’t get lyrics like that everyday, you know.
“The Ghost in Daylight” feels like one of those records that you’ve already heard, even though it’s brand new. It has a natural warmth and openness, despite the often complex and dense subject matter that it deals with. “Islands”, for example, deals with issues of the subconscious whilst “Fitzrovia”‘s psychological mournfulness would be hard to investigate were it not for Talbot‘s deft and dextrous musicianship. Here’s a man who understands the power of the understatement and that less can, when done well, truly mean more.
Fans of Gravenhurst have waited five long years for new material. One simple listen to this record and you know that they will be delighted. Those of you coming new to Gravenhurst are, equally, in for a treat. Gravenhurst isn’t someone that TINAS would normally review as he is neither “heavy” nor “metal” but, seriously, you should put all prejudice aside. “The Ghost In Daylight” is a sublime collection of introspective, nuanced songs that the words “hauntingly” and “beautiful” were created for. Sublime.