PAUl THOMAS SAUNDERS
Paul Thomas Saunders is very much the product of a Grace/Bends upbringing. Others have discerned more of a Bon Iver/Fleet Foxes sound in his work, but it doesn’t really have that rustic quality. It’s more electronic, even if it’s not remotely synthpop or electronica. Like yesterday’s new act, Gross Magic, Saunders has been in bands before but he’s opted for the solo life. And like Gross Magic, he’s 20 and sings in a high voice, usually pure and unalloyed but at other times huskier, as though he were Richard Ashcroft’s effeminate younger brother only with all of Ashcroft’s laddish bravado removed. Did we say he sings high? He sings higher than the castrato son of a choirboy, like the frontcreature with another post-Bends band, the Delays.
He’s not very “Leeds” – when we think of that city, we picture goth. He does have a little in common, musically – in terms of the way, with his eerily ethereal arrangements, he operates around that stylised, 50s-revisited, Twin Peaks-ish doo-wop/high-school pop noir nexus – with another Yorkshire musician, namely Sheffield’s Richard Hawley. Maybe he can put his city on the map as lovingly as Hawley did with Coles Corner.
In 2010 Saunders self-released his debut EP, Four Songs in Twilight, the result, he says, of “impromptu recording sessions in the middle of the night” using just a computer and a microphone. His new EP, Lilac and Wisteria, features five more such nocturnal interludes during which you are warned not to be seduced by the pleasant, somnolent atmosphere. On Wreckheads and the Female Form he sings about “body bags” and “cross hairs”, while on lead track Appointment In Samarra he warns: “The blood is on your hands, the body’s on the ground.” Like Wednesday’s child, he is full of woe. On Good Times, Rags and Requiems, over echoey, delay-drenched and reverb-washed ambience, he sings of death and longing. Silhouettes of an English Rose is another slow, stately hymn for her, whoever she is. Finally, there’s Here Lies Soleil, So Long – and what a title that is. So Morrissey wasn’t the last literate British songsmith, and Noel Gallagher didn’t siphon off all the poesy. We wouldn’t agitate for po-faced feyness per se, but when it’s done right, and the context is as beautifully balanced as this, we’d take requiems and silhouettes over cigarettes and alcohol any day.
TUESDAY 15 APRIL
Wapping Road, Bristol BS1 6UA
Advance tickets available from:
Bristol Ticket Shop
0844 871 8819