Interesting people do not always seem so at first. Sometimes they are too shy or quiet to make an impression, but in time their timidity becomes an attribute: something treasured, appreciated and accepted. All it takes is a bit of effort.
The same principle is true in music. Linen is a shy album – almost scared of imposing itself – and in 30 minutes of tentative piano and steadily unfurling synthesizer pieces, it flickers on the edge of attention like a man leaking loneliness from the end of a bar. After 18 minutes it leaves completely. The final long-form piece “I’ll Walk Back Home” is like the absence of someone who was never quite there, or on-hold music for a number long lost: beautiful, but resigned and aimless.
An awareness of the album’s nature helps us to reach depth behind its timid exterior. The man at the bar leaves; but press repeat and he comes back. I feel like I know him better now. I know the loneliness. I know he will leave soon, so I listen to what he has to say. I begin again from a position of concern and find Linen yields more character the second time around. A narrative “Whatever Changes” and pained, weary “Chemical” make way for a small selection of miniatures and vignettes led by “Purist Notion”, which distinguishes itself with a tad more energy, before once again sinking to the emptiness of its final piece.
As the album repeats, so does the encounter. I listen yet again. This is Linen’s strength: to sit quietly until it is noticed and appreciated. The initial impression may have been unassuming, but the final impression is poignant. Linen is shy to the core, with loneliness and melancholic beauty to match. All the listener needs is the patience to find it. (Jonny Hunter)