Liam J. Hennessey ~ Held

Ah, the middle of summer, when the sun is high in the sky and the clouds offer a widescreen array of steadily changing shapes.  We notice these things when we’re outside.  The old men take Polaroids, the young men use Instagram.  Such is the cover of Held, the lovely new EP from Liam J. Hennessey on Sound in Silence Records, who seems to be single-handedly keeping the Polaroid print industry alive.

Our readers are already familiar with the artist under his old name, Drops.  He fell off our radar a few years ago, but until that time he was responsible for some of the industry’s happiest music.  His most recent venture: to record one song a month for a year.  While this isn’t the most ambitious project we’ve encountered (Lullatone, Justin Small and Wixel recorded a track a week or an EP a month), the pace allows for both flexibility and consistency.  The inspiration is never forced to meet a deadline.  There are no apologies, because none are necessary.  As has become a regular occurrence at Sound in Silence, the project also includes some collaborations: Umber and Good Weather For An Airstrike guest on two tracks, while Absent Without Leave provides the mastering.

The music’s hidden beauty is its construction.  Below the music one can hear layers of field recordings, evident in the first seconds but easily forgotten once the music grows active.  Yet these field recordings are also embedded in the percussion: the rhythm of nature existing just beneath our ears.  The real-life thread that Hennessey weaves into his recordings gives them a home-spun quality, an approachability enhanced by the warm melodies and steady pacing.  While previous efforts have included standout tracks, this 20-minute set operates as a reverie.  The birds and waves seem to melt into the guitars and synths, creating a daydream to match the cover.  Titles such as “Beacons”, “Mirror Lake” and “Over the Bay” solidify the association with water.

Hennessey’s ebullience continues to proliferate throughout the music, as apparent in the muted claps of “Søen” and the final lift of “Viewpoint”.  It’s good to know that the artist’s mood is intact.  Welcome back ~ we’re looking forward to hearing the other half of the project!  (Richard Allen)

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