Last week, we reviewed the new album from aus, back from a ten-year hiatus. Today we cover the new album from The Album Leaf, returning from a hiatus of seven. It’s been great to hear some of these artists returning as vibrant as ever, and in the latter case, on a classic label – Nettwerk – that is also experiencing a resurgence.
Jimmy LaValle has been making music since 1999, which is pretty amazing in itself. While many modern artists have been discovering the music of that time, he lived it, which makes the slightly nostalgic tint of certain tracks less an homage than a continuation. This is especially evident on “Afterglow,” one of the two vocal tracks, a trip hop tune that features the lovely line, “I held you like a present in that childhood bed.” Despite addressing a breakup, the warmth of the music shines through. Later in the album, the ethereal Bat for Lashes sings, “Do you feel me near? I keep you in a photograph,” suggesting that the album may represent the processing of a relationship, or even an era, preserving what is worth keeping while allowing the rest to drop. LaValle admits that the ten tracks were culled from over two hundred demos, a process that may have been slightly painful as well as therapeutic. The tendrils stretch back a decade, a reminder that The Album Leaf began as a solo project but for a time was a band. The title “Cycles” references the this arc, while “Dust Collects” honors the past and the album title, Future Falling, tilts in the opposite direction. The entire album, from “Prologue” to “Epilogue,” is the shaping of a seven-year story, a book in aural form.
The LP flows gently from beginning to end, bobbing on a sea of calm ~ the same name as one of LaValle’s apps. Even the bubbling “Afterglow” keeps its percussion light enough to melt into the surrounding tracks, its synth echoing the horns of “Dust Collects.” And while Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes) calls her track “a sort of ambient fairytale,” the same could be said of the entire set. One can see this in the visualizer for “Future Falling,” as colors and shapes vibrate and morph ever so slightly during the course of the ambient, piano-led piece.
As the album progresses, the trajectory is revealed through a trio of action titles: “Breathe,” “Give In,” “Stride.” Without recorded words, LaValle is giving advice to himself and others. The first is an invitation to pause, relax, just breathe, the peaceful chimes a reassurance. The second implies healthy surrender, letting go, the percussion a sign of resolve. The tempo increases in the third and most confident piece, settling on a walking pace that is brisk but not fast. The horns return, triumphant, a promise of what might come should the first two directives be embraced. LaValle has lived through this cycle, emerged intact, and returned to tell his story. (Richard Allen)