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A.A. WILLIAMS - Forever Blue

All this doesn't mean anything.

Yet at the same time it has never been of more profound importance.

What could be a general statement about the state of music and art in light of the colossally fucked year 2020, very much also applies to my personal life, which during the previous weeks (and still ongoing with absolutely unknown open end) has been shaken by an unprecedented and exhausting terror, which I would have only deemed possible in bad movies until now.  

In a time when both your intertwined work and family lifes are overflowing with stress (I lost several kilos of weight because of that) and an ever-growing mountain of work and problems beyond comprehension, it is easy to dismiss the role of music, especially since I don't even remotely find the time and peace for it like I used to. But I do find it, because I have to.
Worrying all day without distractions and at least some moments of catharsis is definitely not healthy and even when the horizon seems to overflow with work from one end to the other, you just have to stop when you are physically and mentally too drained to do it without mistakes.

In light of this I have never found rehearsing with my band (which is the duo of my brother and me) more therapeutic than now. And even in shuffling through my music collection on random I feel the vital healing power of sound in all its shapes to be something I cannot for the life of me imagine to miss.

And just like the last time a personal crisis (which continued to plague me for several months but seems dwarfish in comparison now) caused me to stay absent from writing on this blog in March, I now return with a review of a certain A.A. Williams, an artist whose output so far couldn't embody the quality of being soul-soothing more. 

A.A. WILLIAMS - Forever Blue (silver vinyl LP) (2020)

After her collaborative EP with Japanese post rock masters Mono and her first self-titled solo EP "Forever Blue" now finds the singer and multi-instrumentalist delivering a debut album which almost sounds too grown and mature to be just that. And it's hard to judge whether the artist even had to sweat much to achieve that.

I'm not implying that she doesn't work on her craft, hell no,  but boy, some people just have that natural artistic gift within them, and A.A. Williams unmistakingly sparkles with it.

This album just grabs you by the feels on all levels, the most obvious being her voice. Not only is there a very distinct calm in it as she sings about overcoming self-doubt and pain, but also an amazing steadiness and precision in her pronounciation. No matter how slow she sings, she doesn't fall into the common habit of free vocalizing to bridge syllables and words, but always stays exactly on her lyrics, which very effectivly amplifies their meaning.

But apart from those lyrics an their representation let's not forget that A.A. Williams is also responsible for the whole songwriting and arrangement of this album, which includes her playing piano, keyboards, guitars and cello - or to put it shorter: everything except bass and drums.

"Forever Blue" at its peaks is definitely a heavier release then the preceding EP and underlines that the collaboration with Mono has been no coincidence.
Because basically the formula of her music is playing singer/songwriter ballads with the tools of epic post rock. And that includes all the dynamics from ambient breathers during which you can hear a needle drop to the big heavy crescendos, most notably on the track "Fearless", which turns into a duet with the harsh screams of Johannes Persson from Cult Of Luna.

There are two more tracks featuring guest vocalists, yet in those she utilizes them in a more traditional way as smooth lower backdrops behind her own voice.

I could go into some more specifics of the eight tracks, but unfortunately I still have work to do on this Sunday night. And also: What is the point?
At the end of the day everything on this album is beautifully written, crafted with attention to every detail and pouring with emotion. It's strong, it's vulnerable, it's an album not only I, but surely many of us need right now.

If I try really hard to find something to grouse about, it would be that the vinyl version "Forever Blue", despite being only one LP, comes in one of those unnecessary gatefolds, which isn't justified by the artwork. It looks good (as does the silver vinyl), but it could also have been done with a regular slim sleeve. 

You see, I'm trying hard. This album is wonderful.

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