Fate, it seems played its part with Blue Angel. The first piece of fate happened at rehearsal rooms, the now defunct Backstreet Studios on Holloway Road in London , when producer/Instrumentalist Jason Newton heard Bella Bennett in the next room, rehearsing for a wedding, and he knew he’d found the voice he’d been looking for.
The other piece of fate was a number, 43. It started with Newton reading an article about somebody being stabbed on a bus that he regularly used, the 43. That led to the band naming their own label 43 records, and then 43 seconds of one of the bands songs being used on Burn Notice, which happens to be my 43rd favourite show (actually, I may have made that bit up) As it’s turned out, Departures, the bands first album comes in at…..you guessed it, 43 minutes long.
[youtube=http://youtu.be/HwOnKk7Qqas] Blue Angel – 43 Days
43-year-old Newton (that bit is real, honestly – well, he had to be, right) explained what he was after with the album ‘ We were looking to create a sense of warmth, simplicity and space with this album. Themes of loss, escapism and leaving run throughout the album giving it a slightly melancholy and yet quietly uplifting mood. I wanted it to be the kind of album that you could listen to late at night when you’re travelling to keep you company and create a safe space around you away from the chaos of the everyday world’.
The album as a whole comes pretty close to Newtons ethos. It reminded me of a beer festival where you try one with a hint of hops and one with a hint of ginger and a dark one and…. you get the idea. Almost all the tracks on the album reference styles of electronic music of one sort or another. So there are tracks with a hint of trip-hop (single 43 days) electro (la Conexion) Acid Jazz (one more to go down) and so on. The record utilises the Bennett’s voice to good effect, her sometimes fragile/sometimes pure (Sophie Ellis-Bexter like) pop voice perfectly suited to most of the tracks, with only a little beauty seeming a little out of place. Similarly Newton flexes his vocal muscles, sometimes to great effect, especially his mutterings that give Breathe real atmosphere and making it one of the highlights of the album, but occasionally (and only occasionally) sounding slightly unconvincing, luckily not to the detriment of the tracks.
The band wear their influences on their sleeve, with Portishead being an obvious one, but also (so it seem to me) Saint Etienne being a clear reference point, especially on Colour of summer, and the funk bassline of Behind the sun could almost have come from a Jamiroquai record. Behind it though is their own sound, a warm electronic hue that settles over the album and draws it together into a clear whole.
Overall, much like a beer festival, it’s an enjoyable journey. Although the band seem content with dipping their toes in various electronic waters, it works as a whole with their underlying sound. 43 days, the RnB-ish Open Spaces and the instrumental title track are all very enjoyable, with only one or two moments in the album proving a little sickly or stale. Newtons aim of creating warmth, simplicity and space are fully realised, and this time that’s nothing at all to do with fate.