“Youth has no age”, Pablo Picasso.
“Good habits formed at youth make all the difference”, Aristotle.
“What is he waffling on about now?” You may ask. I listen to a large, nee huge, amount of music and one thing I have noticed is that the majority of the stuff that impresses me comes from older artists. These musicians have generally spent a not inconsiderable part of their life nurturing and improving on their material and imbuing it with a maturity that their life-long toil and experience has earned.
However musical maturity is not exclusive to the grown-ups, there are some acts I have experienced recently that show an experience way beyond their tender years. Take A Formal Horse, Halo Tora and Synaesthesia for example, superb musicians who seem to be only just out of their teens in most cases.
More by accident than design, a new CD arrived at Progradar towers from an artist I knew little or nothing about. Saul Blease’s ‘Daybreak’ was touted as fusing together elements of heavy rock, alternative and prog with splashes of industrial and electronic. So a right smorgasbord of musical styles going on there and, to top it all, I also found out that this young man is only nineteen years old, yes nineteen!!
Saul is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter hailing from Bristol. ‘Daybreak’ is his first full length release and follows on from a well received acoustic set at The Summer’s End festival in September 2014 where he debuted some of the songs from the record.
The album opens in a dark and gloomy place with the instrumental Everything Is About To Change. Atmospheric and moody, it raises the little hairs on the back of your neck in anticipation of what is to follow as the keyboards and programming rack up the tension several notches. The track segues immediately into Bleeding Soul, the introduction to which is all modern electronica with a bit of nod to Shineback. The relative scattergun approach is inventive and quirky with its industrial edge before everything calms down as a moody piano note underlies Saul’s intent vocal delivery with its latent aggression, especially on the fiery chorus. It is a high energy track with hidden moments of quiet solitude and leaves you nodding appreciatively as it comes to a close. Inspired by Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner (who features in the video) Falling begins with a mournful piano accompanying a repetitive guitar note that screams nineties alternative music to my ears. A hushed vocal all profound and meaningful carries you along with its lilting tone as the sombre pace continues. A song that is almost anthemic in places, I could imagine this becoming a live favourite as it certainly held my attention all the way through.
Now to my favourite track on the album Blue Monday which begins with a portentous and reflective piano that has a distinctively wistful edge. Saul delivers a dynamic and heartfelt vocal performance which grabs at your heart and soul in a pleading fashion. His singular piano style is as joyous as it is painful in the general feeling of ennui that the song engenders. The singular maturity of the music, excepting the sometime annoying overuse of a drum machine, is become highly apparent, this young man has talent. Moving into a more progressive arena Where Were You? Begins with an almost U2 heavy introduction. The song then takes on a softer persona as a gentle undulating piano note is employed to give an impression of peace and calm, allied to Saul’s hesitant and halting vocal. There is a feeling of pent up frustration that refuses to go away though and this builds and boils up just under the surface before breaking out and hitting you its full force on the hard, heavy and pulsating chorus. There is then a break in the track where everything goes a little bit deliciously chaotic and mental for a short while, it is quite inventive and adds a touch of gravitas and even humour to the situation. Perhaps a tad too long at eight minutes as it seems to run out of ideas but, nonetheless, a stylish chunk of guitar driven rock in places and subtle progressive elements in others. This young man’s ability to grab at your heartstrings with emotional music is shown again as Break of Day opens with another subtle piano playing alongside Saul’s earnest vocal. When the song makes an abrupt turn and begins to rock out you cannot help but smile as the nascent riff powers it along. Once more, to my ears, there are huge hints of nineties rock in play here in its, almost, Coldplay style and it is all the better for it as it plays out to a sorrowful close.
Seasons is a delightful track with the bell-like introduction leading in to perhaps the most touching and affective vocal performance yet. I don’t know why but this song just shouts Christmas to me, maybe he should release it in December? The use of strings a genius and just adds that feeling of good will that seems to run throughout the track. This is a moving and touching song that really does fill you full of warmth and emotion. The Other Me begins with an almost salsa rhythm from the drum machine and piano and Saul’s voice glides in smoothly over the top with a methodical delivery. The mood begins to get more serious as we move further into the track, almost sinister in fact. That austere tone carries on as the end begins to dawn and the song comes to an abrupt close.
Where is My Mind? Is a cover of the Pixies classic track and Saul’s version is a great homage to the past masters. Deadpan vocals and a squirreling guitar sound sit perfectly in place in this indie stalwart as it finds a fitting place amongst his own creations. Goodbye is an apt title for the final song on the album and it does leave you feeling a slight sense of forlorn loss with its pressing piano and Saul’s full vocal. Saul vacates the scene with a powerful and pulsating guitar rocking out to bring the curtain down on this impressive debut album.
I do like surprises and ‘Daybreak’ has been one big surprise from the day it arrived. Excellent songwriting showing a depth of knowledge well beyond his nineteen years and an ear for an addictive tune combine to deliver an album that pleases on many levels. Watch out for Saul Blease, he has an excellent future ahead of him, mark my words.