Long time readers will know that Edwyn Collins and Lloyd Cole are two of my musical heroes, and they have had very different albums released recently, both of which give listeners an insight into where the two men are today.
Edwyn Collins last album, Losing Sleep, was the first recorded entirely after his well documented illness and it was as defiant as it was life affirming. His latest, Understated, is more reflective in content, although musically it fits alongside some of his best solo work such as Hope and Despair and Home Again. Tracks such as Carry On, Carry On, Down The Line and the closer, Love’s Been Good To Me, see Collins looking back on his life so far, perhaps saying a fond farewell to that stage, and looking forward to the next.
The biggest surprise for me was the deeper baritone quality to his voice that lend the more melancholy tracks extra poignancy. Think of the American Recordings of Johnny Cash and you have an idea of how Edwyn now croons. Losing Sleep was a remarkable album, but you could not listen to it without thinking of the trauma that the man had recently been through. With Understated that doesn’t cross your mind, you just think that this is one of our greatest singer/songwriters in reflective mode using a terrific band of musicians to great effect.
This is the first single, Dilemna, which is a rowdier number than most of the tracks:
And so to our second hero, Mr Lloyd Cole, a man whose music has soundtracked many a doomed relationship, which, with hindsight, probably explains a lot. Unlike Edwyn, Lloyd has decided to try something completely different, a world away from the mournful songs of love and disappointment that I for one know and cherish. Or is it?
Selected Studies Vol.1 sees Lloyd collaborating with Krautrock legend Hans-Joachim Roedelius on an album of ambient electronica which reminds me of Sakamoto, Tangerine Dream and Eno. This is a path that another of my favourite singers, David Sylvian, has been travelling for some time and there is little doubt that he brings a pop sensibility to the genre that many purveyors of electronic music lack. Likewise, Lloyd appears to give these songs an emotion that is reminiscent of his most mainstream work.
Like Sylivian’s early work with Sakamoto, there is a feeling that Cole is learning a different craft here, and as there are no vocals it is difficult to work out exactly what Lloyd’s contribution is to the project. But then why should that matter if the result is this wonderful collection of ambient sounds? If this is a starting point I’m intrigued to what he does next, but Selected Studies Vol.1 is a fine addition to the electronica section of your record collection. If you’ve never dipped your toes before, then this is a great place to start.
Here is the first track, Pastoral, and if you listen to this on a train journey to the coast, suddenly it all makes a lot more sense:
Like Understated, Selected Studies Vol.1 is not breaking any new ground, (although it will be for many fans of Cole), but both albums are fascinating additions to bodies of work from two men who still remain relevant three decades after they first picked up guitars. What presence? Same as it ever was.
You can read reviews of Edwyn and Lloyd’s last albums here.