30 Jul 2022 - Ben
Alternative / Dirge | Cappio Records (Digital) and Svart Records (Physical) | Release date: 22 Jan 2022 | Favorite song: The Spaces In Between
Patrick Walker returns with a lilting, affecting follow-up to 2016’s Wider Than the Sky. Recorded over the course of a year with an ensemble of collaborators, Perfect Light finds him in a reflective mood.
To some, writing songs is child’s play – make some music, think of a title, write a chorus, throw a few verses around the melody and Bob’s your uncle: a song! To others, songcraft is precisely that: a craft. Every lyric moves the song forward, lets the story unfold. Every couplet is pored over, making sure that there’s little room for superfluousness. Every element of instrumentation contributes to the artwork.
Patrick Walker – as 40 Watt Sun – is in the latter category of songwriters. On Perfect Light I hear elements of I Am Kloot’s John Bramwell and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy in the way that the songs are written and performed. Even while listening to the album for the first time, I could imagine some of the songs being performed by those artists, purely because of the quality of the songcraft on display. This is not intended to infer that 40 Watt Sun’s songs seem generic or derivative – they stand shoulder to shoulder with some excellent company.
Perfect Light is the first album Walker has made without a full band, instead bringing in collaborators such as Andrew Prestidge and Roland Scriver (The Osiris Club), Ajit Gill (Vertaal), Lorraine Rath (Amber Asylum/Worm Ouroboros), and pianist/composer Chris Redman. The result is a reflection on love and relationships, sacrifice and fulfilment, loss and gain.
“Until” is a yearning plea for reuniting with a loved one. He acknowledges that his own behaviour may have driven a wedge between them, but he’s hoping that they’ll one day be together again. The acoustic guitars lurch and stumble, before introducing a haunting, skeletal electric guitar refrain, signalling a change in musical gears. This change feels like Walker is taking a more hopeful and positive approach to reconciliation.
A great illustration of the aforementioned songcraft is found in “The Spaces in Between”, which uses clock-like musical patterns, pendulously swinging fore and aft, powering the rhythm and melody. Time as a metaphor is a frequent reference in the song, “in another time, in another place…” and “you are the rhythm of my days…”. This brings the function of the lyrics into the form of the music in a beautifully lilting way.
Perfect Light isn’t an album that hurries itself. Each of the songs has space to breathe and to explore the motifs and patterns that unfold. Walker’s voice – plaintive and longing – delivers the words of a man who knows heartbreak and loss, as well as his role in it - “I carried more than your love – that’s not what I was wary of; I could live with any amount if I could live with myself.”
The album closes out with the appropriately-named “Closure” – which appears to be a final reconciliation with the end of a friendship. People change, they alter opinions based on new information or experiences, they see situations in a new light and from different viewpoints. Walker seems to acknowledge this in himself and is possibly regretting the loss of a friendship.
Whether Patrick Walker is reconciling his past behaviour with the present man, or looking to apologise and build bridges with former friends and lovers, Perfect Light is a down-tempo exploration of the nature of reconciliation and what happens when self-reflection drives reconnection.