Keaton Henson’s latest LP, Kindly Now, is cinematic and experimental taking music and sound off the beaten path. The music of this album features as the sound track for the World War One ballet epic called Young Men produced by the revered Balletboyz and the BBC. The music is so appropriate and complimentary of the unfathomable deep dark emotional realities of war.
Kindly Now is a sad core sonic exploration, an ebb and flow of seemingly unbridled emotional expression using an array of technical skill and an artist’s palate of electronic and acoustic tone colour. Beginning with the track March, Henson’s skill in sound production is notable in the way he uses his vocal motifs, cut and edited together to create a propelling rhythmic feel. Henson is a reclusive artist who struggles with anxiety, he delves deep within himself to explore these aspects of his personal life (which surely resonate with many in his audience) in Alight. In it he plays the piano, a solitary instrument in itself, singing lyrics such as “Don’t let me go outside, God know, what out there, lies”. In The Pugilist he bares his soul crying out “Don’t forget me” in the crescendo of the song. It is rather confronting to listen to as it addresses one of our collective fears of one day being forgotten.
NW Overture is an instrumental piece featuring only the string section interweaving disconcerting dissonance and consonance. Henson’s whispering vocals return soon after this break in more upbeat songs like Comfortable Love. Polyhymnia is interesting in its lo-fi production, even including the clicking of the saxophone’s keys as part of the texture and sonority. In Holy Lover he engages in what I like to think of as ‘chatter singing’ where short melodic ideas are repeated in various voice parts and layers of the song building up into an animated texture.
Keaton Henson’s new album Kindly Now makes for an intense listening session. You should be the right head space before tackling this one.