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Dan Michaelson - Sudden Fiction

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 12 / 10 / 2011

Dan Michaelson - Sudden Fiction
Label: Editions
Format: CD


Minimalist and breathtaking debut solo album from singer-songwriter Dan Michaelson, which, despite taking its inspiration from a trip to Texas, tends more towards classic rock balladry and vintage soul than alt. country or indie

After making one of 2010’s finest albums with his band the Coastguards, Dan Michaelson is back a year later with a new album, this time recorded without his backing band. Michaelson once described his music as ‘mumblecore’, a reference to his remarkably deep voice. Comparisons to the softly spoken vocals of the National’s Matt Beringer are probably inevitable, but to my ears he sounds more like the young Leonard Cohen, and his songwriting tends more towards classic rock balladry and vintage soul than alt. country or indie. The album was inspired by a trip to Marfa, Texas, and takes its name from a style of writing where stories are told using as few words as are possible. With many of the songs starting with a line from a book, Michaelson here attempts an aural representation of the baron yet beautiful landscapes he found in Texas. Accordingly, on ‘Sudden Fiction’, Michaelson strips back the already-minimalist approach adopted on last year’s 'Shakes' to bare bones arrangements, with no percussion. Michaelson’s guitar, pedal steel and piano are augmented only by a single cello (a nod, apparently, to Lee Hazelwood’s Cowboy In Sweden). These songs are far less immediate than those on 'Shakes', but the moody soundscapes and the crumpled bass of Michaelson’s singing voice are instantly attractive. Slowly, these songs nuzzle their way into your subconscious. A simple three-note refrain on ‘Breaking Falls’ gradually builds up into a crescendo, showing just how much can be done with relatively little. An intimate recording technique, making good use of echo and the squeak of fingers moving chord positions, more than compensates for the lack of a band. Sudden Fiction ends up as more than an experiment in minimalism. Instead, we have a woozy examination of love, which is often dark, but never dreary.

Track Listing:-
1 Breaking Falls
2 Knots
3 Tonight
4 I Lay With You
5 New Ruins
6 We Clear
7 Knee Deep
8 Scraps

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