A bittersweet biography
British singer-songwriter, musician and composer Ben Howard has released his fourth album on March 26th. The album, titled Collections From The Whiteout, is the first time Howard has collaborated with an outside member. On this album, he worked with Aaron Dessner, record producer and one of the founding members of the rock band The National. When collaborating with Dessner, Howard learned how to open up parts of himself to music in ways he had never done before. The collection was born from the inspiration that arose during a trip to Portugal that took place prior to the pandemic, in which Howard listened to music that was born from collaboration and became inspired to explore collaboration in music. This album is chock-full of electronic texture entrees with guitar as the main course.
“Follies Fixture” begins the album with a sparkling electronic appetizer, carrying Howard’s distant and layered vocals. “What A Day” continues with light and mellow percussion, its musical key creating a happier feel. “Crowhurst’s Meme” reverts to the theme of “Follies Fixture” and seems slightly sinister with its edgy guitar takeover and curious lyrics. “Finders Keepers” seems to follow the pattern and imitate the essence of “What A Day,” as does “Far Out.”
“Rookery” interrupts with the intimate presence of Howard’s vocals and the shy background of a guitar. This piece begs the listener to pay attention to the lyrics and the story that is being told, while the soft guitar reminds the listener that this is still music, and the medium in which it is being told is important to the story. “You Have Your Way” embodies a similar idea, with its instrumentals breaking the surface and demanding more attention than “Rookery.”
“Sage That She Was Burning” continues the strong storyline but brings a punchier beat and more use of the synthesizer. “Unfurling” and “Metaphysical Cantations” follow quite with this method, while “Make Arrangements” and “The Strange Last Flight of Richard Russell” lead up to the concluding piece with strange and exciting instrumentals and layered vocals. “Buzzard” finally concludes the album with a classic folk-like tune that tells a short story that feels like a tall tale, carrying a deeper message that will be pondered long after listening to the album.
On his first collaborative undertaking, Collections From The Whiteout, Howard has created a bittersweet collection that pleasantly confuses the audience using vocals with an eerie aftertaste that falls onto the soft mattress of electronic sounds and skillful guitar moments.