TRACK REVIEW: Canou- Last Leaf

TRACK REVIEW:

 

 

Canou

 

 

Last Leaf

 

9.6/10

 

 

Last Leaf is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/canoumusic/01-last-leaf

RELEASED:
January 2016

GENRES:
Folk; Jazz

ORIGIN:

Dorset, U.K.

The E.P., The New Eye-Sky is available at:

http://canoumusic.bandcamp.com/

TRACK LISTING:

Last Leaf– 9.6

Mother Ivey (Swim)9.5

The New-Eye Sky- 9.5

Soft Sun9.6

Laurel9.6

DOWNLOAD:

Last Leaf; Soft Sun; Laurel

STANDOUT TRACK:

Last Leaf

This E.P. was recorded and produced over a period of around three months in Plymouth, England in the autumn/winter of 2015.

Credits:

Released:

January 15, 2016

All music written, performed, recorded and produced by Louis Alberry except for:

Louis Alberry except for:

Carly Bell

Saxophone on Laurel

Michael Alberry

Piano on Soft Sun

____________________________________

GIVEN the rather unsettling and unhappy January that has…

just gone; many of us are looking for something more uplifted and prosperous in February.  With the passing of so many icons of music- including Terry Wogan- it proves what an effect these icons had and how important they were.  With each new loss, we reflect on music and how these people contributed.  Music is one of those areas that seem to bond everyone.  Regardless of gender, age and location:  All of us seem to have music in common.  As we reflect and look back at a rather strange month:  We can look forward to some great new music coming through at the moment.  Before I look at Dorset-based Canou, I wanted to look at the music coming from Dorset; the blends of Jazz and Folk you can find- in addition to the struggles artists can experience when they start out.  Perhaps not stereotyping a country:  It seems Dorset and the counties of the south-west share a love of softer/Folk-influenced music.  As a reviewer, I have encountered quite a few bands/acts based here:  There appears to be that connection with the more reflective side of things.  Whilst it has not produced a huge rafter of legendary acts:  At this time, there are a few promising artists emerging from Dorset.  I always love to find music outside the major cities of the U.K. and what is being made elsewhere.  I think we all- and raising this point again- tend to focus too heavily on the major areas- London, Manchester etc. – and do not find time to take our thoughts anywhere else.  Perhaps there is not enough media attention being paid to smaller/less-known parts of the country.  This is a shame, because there is so many terrific music being produced in counties away from Greater London.  It is interesting to think about various parts of Britain:  Whether you get a particular type of music depending on where about you live.  Whilst countries like Dorset have plenty of Rock, Alternative and Indie bands:  There seems to be that majority who perform that Folk/Blues blend.  As such, venues such as Royal Portland Arms, Sixty Million Postcards and Finns emerged:  Showcasing the best and brightest Dorset has to offer.  I have perhaps been a bit keen to define Dorset and the music coming out here.   From a country that gave us PJ Harvey, it is unsurprising to see so many hungry and original musicians hailing from here.  With the dominance of London, Manchester and Liverpool still evident- a holy trinity that will always get most exposure- we should all take some time to look around.

Canou is the moniker of musician Louis Alberry.  Hailing from Swanage- and based out of Plymouth- you have an artist who is just making his first maneuvers in music.  A couple of years ago he released the mini-album, In a Window in a Canvas.  That seven-track release was recorded in Swanage and saw the young artist make that first impression.  Looking into the record, you realise what an impression that was.  Mixing together Jazz and Folk elements- together with some Pop and Rock touches- you have music that possesses depth, emotion and spark.  Being the early days, Canou’s social media pages are growing- the fan numbers will increase given time- and there seems to be a loyal following already.  Whether Alberry can transcend to the attentions of the larger cities- or prefers to familiarities and faith of the home crowds- here is music that deserves wider exposure.  Having just reviewed a New York band (Too Many Zooz) that has thousands of fans across the U.S.- but not widely known in the U.K.- here is an act with a unique sound and an army of acolytes.  Canou, by comparison, is a more intimate artist that surely has some golden years ahead.  It is not often you see artists authoritatively fuse Folk and Jazz together- putting in some mainstream sounds within those blends.  Perhaps influenced by the classic Folk artists of the past:  You have a young man who values craft and nuance above mindless power and commercial expectations.  Too many upcoming musicians seem determined to make music that is chart-friendly and critic-friendly.  As such, there are so many mindless songs coming through:  Musicians that are so cloying, you wonder why they bothered in the first place.  In an age of social media and amassing followers- the obsession with popularity and getting ahead- it is refreshing seeing a musician taking time to craft some wonderful music.  Not concerned with how many thousands he can get- in terms of his Facebook page and downloads- there is an honesty and tradition to Canou’s music.  I love the Folk artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s- Bob Dylan and Neil Young; Fairport Convention and Arlo Guthrie- and the Jazz-Folk blends of Tim Buckley.  You get a little bit of these artists within Canou’s work:  The New-Eye Sky is a colourful and introspective work that recalls the masters of old with a great, contemporary twist.  His five-track E.P. shows the passion and talent on display:  A consistently engaging and stunning work that is capable of captivating a new wave of fans.  There are a lot of young artists starting out; all of whom have to face the realities and struggles of the industry.  Recently, reports have been documented that attest this point:  The early stages see hardship and financial struggles for so many.  Unless you ‘make it’ and get your name across the mainstream; how easy it is to make a living from music?  Not to put a damper on anyone’s ambitions:  It just seems a cruel reality for musicians to encounter.  With the number of musicians increasing- all willing to tackle the obstacles and shortfalls- it makes it harder for the individual to make a living and gain recognition.  It is wonderful we have so much music coming out.  What it means- for others artists- is they have to fight harder to get their music out there.  When they release an E.P. – or have a gig to promote- they are battling with thousands of others around.  Against the haunting (and daunting) nature of music, one thing stands firm:  Musicians find it hard but continue regardless.  That passion and desire is always going to see them play on and make music.  Canou is an artist that seems anxiety-free and just concerned with making the purest music he can.  I know Alberry will have the same thoughts and aims as every musician- that desire for acclaim and getting his sounds out there- but you cannot hear any nerves or strain the music itself.  Everything sounds completely impassioned, crisp and stunning.  Let us home he has some gigs lined up for 2016.  Having reviewed his friend Bee Maru- you may remember that from a while back- here is an artist that could get some of the capital’s venues interested.  Whatever he has in mind- and whether he will be taking the new E.P. across the country- we have a young talent to be proud of.

Canou is a brave and bold musician that lets the instruments do the talking.  Weaving textures and stories with that that guitar- and the incorporation of a few other instruments- and you have an act that impresses with instrumentation, performance and musicianship.  Whilst there are very few non-vocal artists along new music and the mainstream- usually reserved for the confines of World Music, Jazz and lesser-heard genres- you have an artist that could have mainstream appeal.  Whilst it is difficult to truly capture people without that vocal lead- many look for a human voice to connect the dots- Canou allows the listener to let their mind drift and let the music do the talking.  Given my reticence towards a lot of solo artists- and the fact their voices sound similar and insipid- it is a simultaneously brave and necessary move, here.  I think the importance of compositions- the feel and wonderful richness you can evoke- is often lost behind the voice and production.  Maybe I am off the mark, but I find a bad vocal- or one that does not inspire and impress- can ruin the potential of a good composition or set of lyrics.  If you have not encountered Canou before ensure you listen to In a Window in a Canvas– the 2013 debut that saw an impressive and wide-ranging compositions sit alongside one another.  Almost three years to the day, the follow-up arrives:  The majestic The New-Eye Sky.  One of the marked differences between the releases is the economy and clarity of the songs.  Whilst In a Window in a Canvas was wide-ranging and lo-fi:  The New-Eye Sky is more honed and polished- without sacrificing integrity and emotion.  There is more concision and concentration on the latest E.P.:  The sign on an artist evolving, learning and adapting with each release.  Having come up with an impressive and ‘non-conformist’ sound straight away, I am pleased to say Louis Alberry has not changed things too much on his latest E.P.  You get those haunting and busy strings elicit myriad possibilities, scenes and soundscapes.  Whilst the number of tracks has been cut down (7 appeared on the debut; 5 are seen here) you get more confidence and nuance from the latest record.  Maybe some inter-E.P. gigs have sharpened the skill-set and songwriting:  The New-Eye Sky seems more affecting and able of translating into the mainstream.  I have stated how it may be hard to gain a true grip within the mainstream- with the lack of vocals to be heard- but that is not to say it will never happen.  Great music should pervade regardless of its dynamics and make-up.  It is stunning just how effective the music is with the limitations inherent.  This rate of progression and development could well see an album appear some time very soon.  I know Canou will want to tour and perform across the U.K. and although the music may be reserved to intimate/smaller venues at first- the local bars and halls- there is a great possibility those songs could find themselves being played in bigger venues soon enough.

Louis Alberry is a one-man production, music and writing machine that needs few outside bodies- aside from two others musicians he brings into the fold.  Having creative control and ownership of the music results in something wonderful across Last Leaf.  If a producer- untested or a friend- to come in; the music might lack that necessary quality and personality.  The same could be said of the music itself:  Why bring in other musicians when you have an artist completely controlled and sure of his direction.  So many new artists have an army of writers, producers and musicians:  The music comes across as hollow, soulless and utterly impersonal.  It not only shows a lack of talent- if you can only sing- and do not have the ability to write your own songs- then there seems little point coming into music.  I always adore a musician that can do everything themselves and showcase enormous promise into the bargain.  Here, you have a musician that has seen his music fruit from the ideas stage to recording:  Making sure every note and passage is as stunning as it could be.  Given the quality and near-genius of In a Window’; there is perhaps some heady expectations for The New-Eye Sky’s opening number.  Any fears or uncertainties are allayed instantly.  We get tumbling and child-like guitar notes that welcoming the song in.  With few fears and endless possibilities- you get images of children and innocent minds frolicking with nary a care in the world- it is impossible not to be seduced by the beauty and purity of the music.  Soon enough, you notice a build and acceleration come in.  Percussion can be heard adding a little thunder and heartbeat into the pot:  A light but stunning addition that adds depth and force into the compositions.  Such is Alberry’s imaginative grasp and lack of limitations:  You have a song that throws a lot into the composition whilst keeping it focused and accessible.  After those dizzying and wonderful early strings- our hero shows how deft and sensational he is as a guitar player- that scuffling and Jazz-like beat adds an extra layer.  Your mind starts to look at the last leaf possibilities:  Perhaps there is that progression into autumn and a certain somberness to the song.  Looking at that leaf drop to the ground- the cruelty of winter will soon be upon us- there is a seasonal change and a sense of wistfulness that bonds together to create something truly special.  Electric string come into the pack- light but their influence can be felt- that says so much.  By not having vocals on the tracks- other cuts across the E.P. have wordless vocals- you have that pure composition doing the work.  The Last Leaf was a poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1895.  It’s most affecting verse- in my humble and less-than-poetic mind- is:  “But now he walks the streets/And he looks at all he meets/Sad and wan/And he shakes his feeble head/That it seems as if he said/”They are gone!“.  I get the idea Alberry had this poem in mind when he was penning the track.  Even if not, you can extrapolate that sense of loss, age and inevitability in the song.  O. Henry penned a short story called The Last Leaf that had a slightly different concept- but was similarly memorable and beautiful- and you get literary ideas and possibilities within Canou’s parable.  So vivid and tangible is that sense of season, age and mortality.  With no vocals or lyrics, it is hard to see exactly what the inspiration behind the song was.  Maybe words and vocals would cheapen and distill the essence of Last Leaf.  As it stands, you have a moment that is inescapably mesmerising:  A song that is personal and poetic; deeply human but fantastical too.  At every moment, I find myself helpless to deny the momentum and atmospherics of the song.  It keeps building, developing and evolving as time elapses:  From its acorn beginnings, it blossoms into a proud and statuesque tree- before seeing its progeny submit to gravity one-by-one.  Last Leaf seems like that universal and ubiquitous soundtrack that could accompany a summer’s day or be accompaniment for a rain-lashed night.  It is a track that does not push you away and refuse your company:  It beckons you in and asks you to take it into your bosom.  As such- and contrary to the nature of much modern music- here’s a song that digs deep and begs the listener to let their mind imagine.  You get a lot of insincere, unmemorable and shallow music that does nothing but produce a quick hit and easy-to-digest moment.  Musicians that go further- giving you something enduring and studied- are a rarity indeed.

Louis Alberry is the modern-day embodiment of the genuine Folk innovators of better days.  If you yearn for a reincarnation of Nick Drake and Bob Dylan- with originality and a modern edge- then you should not have to look further than Dorset’s Canou.  Last Leaf is a track that perfectly encapsulates all Canou’s highs- that stunning craft and ability to summon a variety of emotions- into a tight and focused song.  While other songs across The New-Eye Sky are longer and more experimental:  The E.P.’s opener is a concentrated and shorter song that stands as Canou’s finest track.  The production values here- compared to the debut offering- are sharper and a little more polished whilst retaining that live-sounding feel to things.  Few acoustic guitar players have such a wide and nuanced palette at their disposal.  Canou is a musician that can portray emotions, seasons and changing landscapes with ease.  I found myself repeating Last Leaf and seeing what I missed the first time around.  The song keeps revealing new insights and possibilities each time you come back to it.

While I have focused on Last Leaf– for me it is the most complete and authoritative track on The New-Eye Sky– the E.P. serves up plenty of treats and treasures.  Mother Ivey (Swim) boasts that curious title and parenthetical lake-swimming grace.  You imagine yourself reflected against a moonlight riptide:  Something beckoning but dangerous that lures romantic souls to a watery end.  Perhaps our author had other ideas but you get such a rush throughout the song.  After the elliptical and potent poignancy of early moments:  The song erupts into a symphonic and head-altering cacophony that throws up so many possibilities and hard emotions.  Lacing together some warped and Jazz-inflected sounds together with a solid Folk core and you have something experimental and progressive.  Almost a Prog.-Rock-like anthem unfolds.  Multi-part and epic; it unveils new buds and chapters as the song unfolds.  Every listener will have their own interpretation and idea as to the inspirations behind the song- for me, it has to be two lovers swimming and being pulled under the waves.  Given the title, perhaps something more ecumenical and faith-based is being ascribed.  Maybe wrestling with ethical and religious conflicts has enforced the song.  Who knows, but what I do know is, it’s a track that will compel you to come back and revisit.  That unexpected build- with its ecstatic race and furious dance- is one of the biggest emotional hits on the E.P.  A veritable hurricane and snowstorm in one- you get a gale-force slap across the face- it is a bracing and breathtaking sense awakening.

The title track is the most listened-to and popular song across the E.P.  The track begins with a tender and reserved guitar line that sees some echoed vocals- one of a few vocals that appear inside the E.P.- give haunting and atmospheric ingredients.  Light and breezy, that conflict and juxtaposition- the eerie, spectral voices against the peaceful and becalmed composition- results in a song that has so much depth and fascination.  Again, you get a building anthem that has that epic status attached to it- at over 7-minutes long; it’s the E.P. longest track.  Not a musician to be taken lightly, you get elements of Nick Drake, Neil Young and the Folk greats in that extraordinary finger-picking.  Perhaps Drake is the most immediate recollection as a beautiful and riparian beauty unfurls before your ears.  Pastoral and emotive; you are lost inside the contrasts of lightness and the dark:  Helpless to refute the strange and beguiling power that is projected.  Towards the latter stages, the track hits a stride and increases its edginess.  A catchy and pressing beat steps the song up as Jazz elements fuse with bristling electronic strings- together with those core Folk sounds.

  Soft Sun is no misnomer or false promise.  Early on, you get some gorgeous and entrancing piano notes that remind me of the Jazz greats of old.  The percussion rumbles and crashes like a wave; the piano rolls and weaves with aplomb and a swooning heart.  Bonding together- the song has a great quiet-loud dynamic- you have some wonderfully immersive and escapist.  Here is a song to get lost in and reveal yourself in its bracing emotiveness and romanticism.  Stunned by the authority, musicianship and originality that radiates through- one of the most startling and triumphant cuts across the entire E.P.  The piano work is especially mesmeric:  A performance that mixes dizzying highs with reflective lows.  That energy, fascination and grandeur never releases its grip on this song:  Every minute and passing passage gets inside the mind and will not escape the thoughts.  A song that allows you to imagine the morning sun- it all its resplendent beauty and peacefulness- one of the most evocative and transcendent moments from Canou.  I can tell how much detail, time and attention has gone into the process of making this song.  Whilst Michael Alberry is responsible for those piano sounds; you must give kudos to our hero who has put so much of his soul and heart into a truly wonderful moment.

Laurel ends The New-Eye Sky with more haunting vocals and something strangely beautiful.  The guitars and electronics lead to something (again) that reminds me of Prog.-Rock.  Building into an astral and cosmic sound- weird and quirky at the edges- everything is kept grounded by that consistent and gripping vocal.  While the acoustic guitar ensures beauty, tranquility and romance are always inside that beating heart:  Projecting outwards you get shadows and something more bracing and unusual.  Allowing the guitar to prosper and interject towards the middle- a nice moment that showcases Alberry’s impressive chops, fluidity and range of ideas- against the ghost of a young Nick Drake can be detected.  Such a stunningly impressive player that can mix the grave and affirmative together and make it sounds natural and completely right.  Before you get entranced in the guitars, a soothing and sensuous saxophone- played by Carly Bell- adds mystical sexuality and Blues/Jazz coefficient that stuns the imagination.  Such a gorgeous and soulful sound spars spectacularly with boulder-like percussion and the frantic build-up.  Reaching fever-pitch heights, the song gains fresh impetus and intensity- taking its sound to a wonderful righteous crescendo.

In A Window In A Canvas cover art

Having investigated In a Window in a Canvas– the curiously-titled debut release from Canou- it has been a pleasure looking into The New-Eye Sky and the most essential cut.  I was keen to review the lead-off track as it gives the fullest impression of the E.P. and what it is about.  The entire collection shows what a talent and ability Louis Alberry’s alter ego has.  Filled with life, love, passions and vivid scenes:  You have an E.P. that is perfect for any mood and time of day.  You get recollections of the ‘60s and ’70s Folk acts alongside Jazz interspersions and Pop flavours.  At every possible avenue I am trying to push out of my comfort zone- Rock and Alternative music- and embrace sounds that provide depth and diversity.  The mainstream’s best Folk-Pop-Jazz mixers are either under-the-radar or hopelessly inept.  There is so much unspectacular and predictable music coming out, it is always a treat discovering an artist that sounds new and promising.  Derision and criticisms have been levelled at B.B.C.’s ‘tips for 2016’ list:  The winner, Jack Garratt, is seen as representing the worst traits of the music industry.  While that assessment is particular to a few publications; there is some truth in the matter.  The Independent- in an article from 25th January- ascribed Jack Garratt as the definition of blandness.  They were keen to highlight particular issues- the songs have no nuance of durability; the singing is off-key and un-affecting- whilst there seems to be the proliferation of tear-inducing singers with little grit and originality.  The media-trained and disposable artist seems to be the norm. these days- according to The Independent’s writer- and represent the death knell of modern music.  In a similarly scathing article, The Guardian bemoaned the replication of the white-boy Soul singer:  The James Bay-type artists that seem to pollute the charts and radio waves.  There is editorial bias and subjectiveness in these pieces although there is a little truth in the pieces.  Too many similar and zeitgeist acts are coming through with the same husky voices and songbooks.  I am not sure what has inspired the proliferation- acts trying to sound like U.S. Blues/Soul artists- but it seems to be popular with a particular group of music listeners.  Canou is an artist that is not only a genuinely fascinating Folk artist- someone who will never receive a derisory beat-down from a broadsheet paper- but a guanine article.

There is no fakery and forced qualities to his music:  Every note showcases a musician who knows his craft and does not want to follow the pack.  Whilst there is little to distinguish between Ed Sheeran, James Bay and Jack Garratt- besides their facial hair and fashion sense- we need to embrace artists that rebels against the radio-friendly sounds that have a baffling vogue at the moment.  The New-Eye Sky has more in common with the glory days of ‘70s Folk than it does the Folk-cum-Pop artists of today.  This is a good thing, because not only will the music resonate with older listeners- there is that opportunity to give younger listeners something genuinely quality-controlled and nuanced.  A big problem is music is the narrow and homogenised nature of the media and artists.  The aforementioned singers are all London-based (or near enough) singers that produce much of a muchness.  While a lot of genres and acts are proffered, there seems to be that obsession with a certain look and type.  For that reason, too few outlets are concentrated away from the capital and towards something more fascinating.  If you have not heard Canou- a bit of a local secret- then you should reserve some time to get inside the music and magic.  Perhaps not as immediate and hard-hitting as Royal Blood or their ilk:  What you get is music that reveals its peacock feathers upon future listens and gets inside the soul.  The songs do what great and original music should do:  It is cerebral and thought-provoking whilst ensuring it stays in the mind and gets the heart throbbing.  No cliché lyrics and lamentable (boring) guitar strumming.  There is so much adventure, scenery and story within Canou’s motifs you will want to come back to the music time again.  I can see a big future for Louis Alberry in London.  I have stated how there is an obsession with London Folk/Pop newcomers, but that was a parable:  A way to show how positive reinforcements can lead to a more diverse and qualitative music scene.  Too little attention is paid to the purveyors of originality and surprise:  For that one reason, we need to ensure the likes of Canou have their opportunity to shine.  Free from the weedy-voiced depressiveness of so many male artists:  Canou is a comparative supernova that is a proper musician sans cynicisms and box-filling.  It is just the compositions alone (without vocals to his music) that have the work to do- and do so with stunning conviction.  While there are issues with the assessments of The Guardian and The Independent- the troubling ‘white boy’ racism of one piece; the narrowness that is displayed- you can take some truths from them.  Essentially- regardless of genre, colour and location- music that has soul, authenticity and personality should supersede anything inferior and less.  That seems to be axiomatic:  Canou is a Dorset-based act that is sure to see his name and brand expand to a wider audience.  While few new artists successfully blend together Pop, Folk, Jazz and Rock- in the mainstream at the very least- it is impressive everything hangs together so impressively.  With the giant that is Terry Wogan departed-a D.J. that prided himself on championing the best and most original musicians- keep his memory alive and…

ENSURE the likes of Canou gain the royalties they richly deserve.

 

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Follow Canou

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/canoumusic

__________________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/canoumusic

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