Listening to Forever Blue, it’s impossible to believe A. A. Williams only made her stage debut in 2019. Forever Blue is a truly astounding piece of work for a debut album.
Release Date: 3rd July 2020
Label: Bella Union
Formats: CD, DL, vinyl
There’s a story about finding an abandoned guitar in the street that’s played it part in the A. A. Williams story.It’s been a subtle and deliberate build. Collaborations with Japanese post-rockers MONO and a toe dipper of an EP have whetted the appetite and given an indication of what might be coming up over the hill. And it is indeed a monster.
The post-rock and post-classical tags pay lip service in an attempt to attach a genre label to an album that’s simply stupendous music. Fear of being lulled into a false sense of security? Have none, you’re never more than six feet from an impending swell and rush of intensity. It’s an album that’s testament to Williams’ songwriting and delivery, and the skills of husband and bassist Thomas Williams, that her classical upbringing is harnessed and twisted into an imposing set of songs.
The melancholy ambience is close to overwhelming. Dark and beauteous, a sense of loss and longing reinforces how therapy is intrinsic to the approach; not just expressing and unpicking her feelings but to work through them. “Verbalising something, you feel a weight has been lifted,” she says. In every sense, a cathartic album as the emotions pour out in a nod to the Emma Ruth Rundle/Chelsea Wolfe school of music
All I Asked For (Was To End It All) is a haunting opening song that’s totally hypnotic with the string drone and languid pace providing irresistible bait. Followed by the incredible Melt, you could well be sated. Worth the admission price alone or at least the cost of a lovely silver vinyl copy. The moment when you know, when you can feel it coming, but the crescendo at 3:42 gives goosebumps every time. I should know, I’ve had it on loop.
However, it’s best to give the rest of the record a listen – just in case – six more tracks further confirm the outstanding promise held in the opening ten minutes. The gentle caress of electric guitar and combination of voices on a more laid back Dirt evolve into another dynamic shift on Fearless. A perfect title for a track where the death metal growl (Cult Of Luna’s Johannes Persson doing the honours) both unexpected and glorious, but shockingly apt. A first-half that’s very hard to follow
Glimmer and the crashing waves on Love And Pain do the job though. Have we heard anything as lush since the days of The Moody Blues and Procul Harum? More shifts in dynamics as we shift from hearing a pin drop to soaring vocals and sweeping arrangements. Pure class.
The mood is kept more refined in the I’m Fine closing piece. The sound of birdsong taking us back to nature and a sense of spiritual fulfillment. What’s more surprising is that the dalliance between intimate and epic on Forever Blue was mainly captured at the Willams’ two-bedroom flat in North London.
Take a leaf from the A. A. Williams book of how to do things. The next time you find an unwanted guitar in the street be careful where it may lead.
Listen to All I Asked For (Was To End It All) here: