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Compelling and forceful second album from talented Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Paul Iwan
Paul Iwan is a Liverpool-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of immense talent.
He self-released and produced his debut album ‘Resister’ in 2019, and since then has participated in a songwriting mentorship with The Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies. His second album ‘Present’ has come out on limited edition red vinyl and CD on excellent local label Klee Music, which has done much to highlight Liverpudlian talent.
‘Present’, which mixes together guitars, loops and keyboards, all played by the versatile Iwan, has a largely, pumped-up, adrenalized sound, which is something akin to The Manic Street Preachers if they used synthesizers. Iwan, however, diversifies and experiments enough within this format and takes plenty of risks to produce an album that is constantly riveting.
‘Further Away’ opens with the muted-down flickering flame of a piano, before the big guitars and keyboards kick in. ‘Still’ closes the first half of the album in the glorious frenzy of a 70’s style prog rock workout, and ‘Leylines’ is a shimmering and evocative instrumental.
Lyrically. Iwan proves to be a forceful presence as well. On the brooding opener ‘Loss’ Iwan concludes with weary acceptance that, however painful it is when it ends, it is better to have loved and lost someone than never to have loved at all (“Are you here with me?/All that matters is I was with you to the end”). The couple on ‘Further Away’ try to talk about things and to desperately reconcile, but their fear of breaking up just makes them drift further away from each other (“Panic is always near/It keeps me from you/I need to understand/I just want the truth”). ‘Underwater’, with its field recordings of the ocean that run throughout underneath it, hazy guitar lines and sparse lyrics (“Not waving, you’re drowning/Keep your head underwater”) captures that feeling of sinking and going under.
The inside sleeve of the album’s gatefold sleeve comes with a quote from the American poetess Sylvia Plath –“The hardest thing is to live richly in the present without letting it be tainted out of fear for the future or regret for the past.” On the soaring, euphoric title track, the song which carries the most optimism on the record, Iwan seizes hope from the realisation that, with the past behind him and the future an unknown quantity, all he has to deal with is the present (”Here, now. I’m in the present/I am home/The world falls away when I close me eyes”).
Best of all is the final track ‘Mono; which focuses on another couple falling apart because of their very different takes on the world (“How can we see things the same/If we don’t see things the same/I see in mono, you in glorious stereo”). Its music spirals, clambering in steady jabs ever upwards, before suddenly cutting out, bringing the album to a shock end, and leaving its powerful tunes resonating in the mind for hours afterwards.
A thoughtful and compelling album from a major talent.
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