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"When I Went Away" by Ollie Bond

Review

I find myself mentioning ‘artists on a roll' increasingly frequently these days: not every artist works to the same pace & lord knows many simply haven't the time to be prolific. However it barely seems a week or so since I was telling you about Ollie Bond's single "Safe With Me" (in fact it was just over a month ago) and yet here I find myself giving you advanced warning of his next one, namely "When I Went Away" which is due out on 31st January (though it can already be pre-ordered).

 

By reviewing his singles in quick succession however, it is easier to spot trends & progressions and having noted in December that "Safe With Me" possessed a fuller sound than that I previously associated with Ollie, "When I Went Away" seems another substantial stride along the road he's currently on. It actually starts in pretty classic Ollie style with sparse accompaniment for the initial minute & three quarters, a sombre tone with his voice very exposed in getting some thoughts off his chest. Thereafter, the arrangement gets most involved & it must have taken a great deal of thought and crafting: other instruments join in, thickening the texture & underscoring the development of the lyrics, including  a snare, bass & piano, yet though the song builds, the extra elements do not distract from the central voice & indeed drop in and out regularly creating an ever shifting sound, which given that the listener is probably still concentrating on Ollie's vocal, tends to create almost subconscious melancholic effects. One element is actually beyond me to state exactly what it is, being a high pitched keening sound which could be a violin or keyboard but whichever it is adds another thread of emotional texture. After a while too, you start imperceptibly to notice another part of the sound picture which eventually reveals itself to be the vocals of Viktoria Hricikova (an artist who ranks very highly on my aspirational list for reviewing in "Hot Music Live"). So subtly is this woven in that although I am pretty sure I can recognise it from around the three & a half minute mark, on repeated listenings it is possible Viktoria may have started singing over a minute earlier

The narrative is concerning a reflection back upon a departure from a relationship: both a general regret over behaviour during it & specific guilt over how the ending was handled. To be honest Ollie doesn't half beat himself up throughout the vast majority of the song & so I'm pleased that he does add a (admittedly rather small) element of what we refers to as "acceptance" at the end: but rather like Joe Dolman who also writes songs in which the lines between mature acceptance of responsibility, sensitive reflection and being hard on yourself can be both narrow & blurred, one's feelings of respect for the artistry can get a bit overshadowed by your concern for him as a person...

The tone, both lyrically & sonically actually parallels Ollie's own current journey within the song: starting perhaps with a link back to his "old style", touching on the Americana but metamorphosing during it into a more soulful melodic and sombre ballad approach with different & more complex instrumentation: a microcosm of his evolution maybe?

At any rate, like its predecessor, Chris Field has created a beautifully pristine sound with elements both crystal clear when appropriate or so carefully woven into an "effect" arrangement that individual parts by themselves are often less easy to pick out, given that they are there to serve an overall picture. Such an approach has a danger of course as the prominent ingredients would have every drift in pitch or technique exposed were they not so perfectly delivered.

I'm not at all sure where Ollie's muse is taking him, but he's definitely off somewhere interesting & I hope I can chart is adventures with you in "Hot Music Live".

 

The excellent sleeve artwork by the way  is by Dan Bond (who also played the drums) with the photo itself by Stuart Bond

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