The new solo outing from the veteran musical polymath features long time collaborator Nina Walsh. It’s a sparse recording and something very different from his electronic recordings and DJ sets. Convenanza combines live instruments, electronica and inexpertly sung vocal musings.
It’s strangely compelling. There are few individual songs that might be taken as standout singles, although ‘Disappear’ would be a good candidate, this is an album to be listened to as a single piece. Which is rare enough in itself.
Weatherall came close to mainstream fame in the ‘90s with Sabres Of Paradise and through his work with Primal Scream, among others. The two have mutually influenced each other’s sound. Or perhaps it’s a result of their shared influences that they use many of the same touchstones on their recordings.
Convenanza kicks off with ‘Frankfurt Advice’, an instrumental funk noir dripping with urban paranoia and menace which segues seamlessly into ‘The Confidence Man’. Weatherall's vocals come in on this track. His voice is very like Terry Hall's haunted speak-singing, swathed in oodles of reverb.
This section of the album bears a heavy reggae influence with plenty of dub bass and live sounding drums. If this is a throwaway collection of tunes as Weatherall suggests, then I can only begin to imagine what the Weatherall/Walsh pairing could achieve if they went all out.
The synth sounds and production on ‘The Last Walk’ are old fashioned, reminiscent of early new wave and new romantic songs with the unease and general malaise of Massive Attack's darker moments.
The first four tracks play like sections of the same movement. ‘Kicking The River’ marks the first break in the flow of the music. It’s all wah wah guitars and key drones as Weatherall plays King Canute.
‘Disappear’ is a short track by the standards of the album and is the first appearance of Walsh. The shared vocal and catchy refrain make it a highpoint of the record, both musically and emotionally.
‘We Count The Stars’ has sparkly percussion that tinkles as the stars do but any hope of rest and ease is dashed by the intervention of some experimental jazz horns and a horror movie bassline. ‘Thirteenth night’ is some incidental music that keeps threatening to turn into a song. It could be the recurring theme of a Hal Hartley film.
Closing track 'Ghosts Again' is like The Cure with Weatherall coming across all Robert Smith, over a tremulous Disintegration-era guitar and mournful strings. “Please forgive this letter/It’s the last, my friend/All prayers have failed to save me/Let’s conjure up the ghosts again”.
It ends the album on a melancholic note, a million miles away from the tone of the opening songs. The tonal shift is almost imperceptible but the album really dials up the misery as it progresses. This is not a party album, but is a great chill out album. It would be perfect for a lazy smoke hazed afternoon. But not if you are feeling mentally vulnerable, then you should save it for a sunny day.
Convenanza is available from amazon.