Sunday, 29 July 2018

Album: Kevin Nolan - Absent At The Moment When He Took Up The Most Space

Kevin Nolan - Absent At The Moment When He Took Up The Most Space

Info: Dublin-born singer-composer-author Kevin Nolan is known for a dark, theatrical style, and dramatic tour de force. After the success of his debut album Fredrick & the Golden Dawn, released in 2014 to European critical acclaim, Nolan returned to his studio to make his next album. However, knee-deep into the second album, he decided to pause and cast his eye back at the recordings he made before Fredrick, that he himself had not listened to since he began work on the debut in 2006. 

Pre-internet self-taught and recording everything on his own, “Absent At The Moment When He Took Up The Most Space” is a selection of recordings Nolan made between ‘97 and ‘05. The thirty eight songs that make up this album are taken from Nolan’s archive of over 150 recorded during that period; none of which were ever released. 

"It's been over 20 years since the earliest of these recordings. In that time, I have learnt more and more about my process and the different ways I have tried to understand it over time. I see these songs as a significant part of my growth as an artist, I simply would not be the artist I am without first being the artist I was. And so in a way, I am paying my respects to a former self. I see this time as an immensely significant part of, and integral to, any reading of my work as a whole thus far, first and foremost for myself."

Kevin Nolan - 'Slow Boat'

Kevin Nolan is an artist I've long admired, there are no conventions, no parameters, his song-writing resides in an infinite open space that will never be fully filled. His debut album Fredrick & The Golden Dawn was an entirely unique addition to the Irish music catalogue when it was released, and rightfully received high-praise from all and sundry, The Irish Times, Hot Press, and no more than 7 well-known Irish music websites and blogs.

This week he has released a sprawling collection of 38 tracks which are incredibly somehow a microcosm of recordings from between 1997 and 2005 in the shape of Absent At The Moment When He Took Up The Most Space. Scattered among the tracks he expresses his penchant for brief snippets of sonic explorations, warped tunnelled vocals as heard on opening track 'Chemical Truce Overture', the majestically cosmic dream-state of 'Letter to the Future Overture' and 'Mistaker'. Indeed, of the 38 songs on the album, only 3 of them clock in at over 3 minutes. Much of the album can be imagined in a metaphorical sense as isolated verses of a poem or song which you will never hear the full version of. This is interesting to me as it made me wonder where each piece of music may have begun or ended in its non-existent entirety.

Kevin Nolan - 'Pick Up A Smile' (Artwork by Susanne Wawra)

Second track 'Landslide' has an old world Californian folk-pop vibrancy that is as bright as it is cheery with a soul-lifting bluesy guitar interlude. A dark and unsettlingly warm moment arrives on 'Way of the World', and like much of the album contains admirably personal lyrics and lived experiences from Nolan. That contrast between the mood of the music and themes starkly show up on 'The Ballad of the Pallbearer' which contains the comi-tragic line "He's so fucked up, they got him locked up, and my mother doesn't know, and my father doesn't know, everybody knows, but me".

On 'The Way I Feel For You Tonight (For S.C.) we get a modern re-working of the early years of 60's pop-rock, this is With The Beatles or The Turtles territory, a wry ode to that dewy-eyed era. The theatricality of Fredrick and Nolan's habitude for plonking bar-room piano moments is in full swing and pomp on 'Come Over Tonight'. It's hard to not think of Elton John behind the keys on this one which also shows up in a more Magical Mystery Tour manner on 'Dog Daze' later on in the album.

Though there are many, a big surprise for me came on the wonderful 'The Wolf Who Cried Boy', a sound and delivery I would never expect from the artist, it's more folktronica than anything else on Absent At The Moment When He Took Up The Most Space, cheery Lemon Jelly vibes abound! There is a lot of ground to cover on the album, and although it should be disjointed, it's almost impossible that it isn't, the whole experience combined feels like stroll side by side with the past Kevin Nolan. Like a tour guide in a 19th century art gallery or museum, he stops at each song and explains each moment to us, pointing out the most interesting elements of each story.

Other highlights for me were; 'Francy', 'Wonder Why', 'Carrie', 'She Left New York' and the escapist choral mystique of closer, 'Caveat Emptor'.