Wednesday, 7 November 2007

KEVIN AYERS: Brainstorm

With its affably low vocal and crochet pattern of guitars busily knitting into a waltz-time gait, “Brainstorm” seems at first hearing to fit snugly into the general morosely good nature of Ayers’ new album The Unfairground; there is a general air of an expat Brit Leonard Cohen with the same rueful smile at chances missed and lives lost. But he sings of “visiting time in the past” as a refuge from whatever he has to face now, and as he approaches the chorus his dreams are then ruthlessly blown apart: “And then the storm blows a scream/and it crashes your dream/like a fist through a curtain of glass.” Suddenly bereft, Ayers raises his tone only a fragment to allow his request of “And so you shout, scream/Gimme back my dream!/I need one to get through the day.”

The previously placid music, too, is gradually derailed, firstly by distant shards of guitar feedback which will eventually intrude into the foreground and eat up the track like a fist of post-metal, and then splintered piano as well as a moribund-sounding string section and an almost subliminal musical saw. “If it’s lost and it’s gone/I won’t keep hanging on/And the storm can just blow me away…(down to quietude again)/Blow me away.”

It is his first album in fifteen years; there are reasons for this to do with others no longer here but it seems as though “Brainstorm” is the closest Ayers has come to looking anger and grief in the eye since “Song From The Bottom Of A Well” even though musically the former superficially seems the exact opposite of the latter; throughout the record he is assisted by various contemporary indie types (assembled by his producer rather than himself; he confines his listening to World Music these days) as well as some old friends. I note that the icy fire of the guitar freakout on “Brainstorm” is performed by Phil Manzanera; only those who have lived and dwelled for long enough can truly know.