Album review: Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders

Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders
Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders
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If Paul Thomas Saunders’s home made EPs Lilac and Wisteria and Descartes Highlands – from 2011 and 2012 respectively – hinted at a crystalline talent, the one-time Leeds-based singer songwriter’s major label debut album is notable for its soaring ambition.

There are echoes of the wide-eyed wonder of Sigur Ros in here, maybe even a little Bjork, and some of the so-called ‘Big Music’ of the 80s.

The sense of space and atmosphere in songs such as Starless State of the Moonless Barrow and A Lunar Veteran’s Guide to Re-entry is reminiscent of the electronic experiments of Greek synth pioneer Vangelis and the French composer and arranger Jean-Claude Vannier.

Waking & Evening Prayers for Rosemary-Mai opens with a tumble of finger-picked guitar before giving way to a breathy synthesiser melody; the driving electric guitar of In High Heels, Burn It Down is perhaps the album’s most radio-friendly moment.

Though dark shadows lurk beneath the fluting falsetto of Wreckheads and the Female Form in lines such as “Kids in the shape of bayonets and body bags”, there’s sweet salvation to be found in the glorious Santa Muerte’s Lightning and Flare.

An album for dreamers everywhere.

Montage by Graeme Bandeira

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