Album Review: Hayden Thorpe – Moondust For My Diamond

7.5/10

Hayden Thorpe Moondust For My Diamond

Wild Beasts went about things the ‘right’ way, gradually building up a following with successively better (chart-performing, at least) albums and then, following in the footsteps of The Maccabees, announcing their disbandment at the peak of their career.

Both Tom Fleming and Hayden Thorpe have released solo compositions since, and between the pair of them have siphoned off elements of the band that work for them.

Yet neither could be accused of regurgitating their former band’s sound (relatively eclectic in itself) and indeed, on Thorpe’s second solo album he pushes his personal envelope even further.

While his debut Diviner was defined by austere fragility, Moondust For My Diamond finds Thorpe moving into more electronic directions, but rather than an immediate foray onto the dancefloor, it’s all about soothing balms and humanising the machine where possible.

‘It is interesting to note that perhaps with the Arab spring, the change in music and analogue modes of receiving information, it might be possible that the internet will bring in a new era in the ideas of spirituality, that is digital mysticism,’ Thorpe declared recently, which gives an insight into his headspace and works well as modus operandi for the album.

Lead single The Universe Is Always Right – with its mellow pace and quiet acoustic in conjunction with high-pitched synths beneath a luscious vocal melody – sets the scene well, and the album follows suit.

Opener Material World pulses gradually, but serenely, into life at its own pace. ‘It’s only real if I make it,’ Thorpe intones repeatedly as a mantra. All tickety-boo so far, but No Such Thing gives shade to the light, with a more anxious and sombre mood throughout.

Thorpe’s recognisable falsetto is dispatched sparingly (indeed, the indistinct words for which the voice was the vehicle have disappeared completely), giving more scope for his countertenor to shine.

Parallel Kingdom, a song that Thorpe describes as refusing to die, twitchingly keeps things moving with a beat that encourages movement of the body, yet to dance to it in a joyous way would feel vulgar, while the groove of Metafeeling feels to all intents and purposes like a stoned Chic.

Subtlety is a strength of Thorpe’s and used to excellent effect on Golden Ratio. The main body of the song is functional and the ear is caught by the lyrics (‘Tomorrow’s mysteries slowly reveal/I’ll be dancing’ is a message we can all get behind) until the use of an understated oboe in the outro. Barely audible but gut-wrenching, it dazzles in the way brass was used on Bowie’s Blackstar and elevates the track, and indeed the album.

With such sparse instrumentation and glacial pace, it does inevitably flag at points; Supersensual, in which Thorpe draws out every syllable of the word and the music, is barely audible for two minutesand has a backbeat that frustrates in its lethargy, a droopy keyboard kills the mood he’s trying to generate.

Meanwhile, Suspended Animation (‘Where are we in time?’) suffers from an ill-advised attempt at subtle funk which the subject matter fails to warrant, despite Thorpe’s warming croon.

However, the moments of tender beauty vastly outweigh the negatives; incredibly calming, near zen-like and even at points exquisite, Moondust For My Diamond is a slow burner which takes its time to reveal its secrets but rewards those with the patience to do so.

Richard Bowes
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