How To Leave A Room, Z+
"Many men are melancholy by hearing music, but it is a pleasing melancholy that it causeth, and therefore to such as are discontent, in woe, feare, sorrow or dejected, it is a most pleasant remedy.
It expels cares, alters their grieved minds, and easeth in an instant.
Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton (1632)
WARNING: This review expects that you will listen to the album.
Also, this review will not use the prefix post-, the suffixes -core and -esque, nor will it invent any new words. This review will not reference several bands that you will feel smug for knowing about, or any that will make you feel uncool or old for not having heard of.
I feared you might never hear this album. That would have been a massive shame.
"What kind of wanker would review an album he played on?" I hear you, the hectoring voice in my head, ask. The proud kind, I answer. The kind who played on a few songs, and didn't write any of them, so feels it's not too conceited - but who also straddles the artist/listener divide, so can perhaps provide a unique perspective on the record.
"It's the words you don't say, you will think of in your grave."
Z+ was a solo project*, yielding an album (Songs From The Early House) of melancholic songs with intricate finger-picking and and a kind of yearning feeling. It was really good.
*(at this point, most reviews would introduce Z+ as "otherwise known as..." or "known to his mother as..." or the x year-old singer-songwriter from y town. I know these details, but what would they mean to you? A conventional review would mention all these details, but this is not that - a fact I wouldn't have to spell out if I was a better writer.)
"I have set my sights on a brighter day..."
Later, the band's line up was completed with the addition of another guitar and a cello - and two singers playing them. This added a richness that is in full effect on How To Leave A Room: both guitarists write and sing lead, while the cellist provides harmonies.
The vocals are so beautifully unaffected, so sweet and pure and unadorned - and sound so close, like they're being whispered in the listeners' ear. It makes for an intimate, atmospheric record.
There's a darkness to it as well, and it's slow in places, but never feels too slow, just goes at its own pace, in a way reminiscent of [insert name of obscure band that plays extremely slow music here]. It's almost like it's holding something back, and then eventually, there's a crescendo, which doesn't quite resolve, but still satisfies - the kind made famous by [insert name of legendary band everyone knows but doesn't listen to here].
"So, watch me, when I'm about to come clean - I'll never say what I mean to anyone."
In the studio, the band worked quickly - the whole thing was recorded in three days, a remarkable feat, especially given the complexity of the songs - it was helped by the perfectly-judged, unelaborated production.
I also know, and a conventional review would tell you, about a personal tragedy the band suffered as they prepared to record, and if I told you about it, the record would have even more poignancy, but I - and possibly they - would rather not tell you about it.
"Beauty is not beauty when it's nailed to the ground."
The atmosphere in the studio was relatively relaxed - despite the seeming seriousness of the music, this is a band with a great sense of humour, which came in handy when switching from a drop D tuning to a bespoke Bb/D/Gb/F/E/G or whatever (this happens between every song, it seems). At one point, it was suggested that the best of Z+ would be called "Incessant Tuning", and this got a good laugh, probably.
A normal review would tell you some of the song names as well, using them as examples of the claims it makes about the album in general , but this review expects you listen to it for yourself, which you can do, simply by clicking here.
Which you definitely should do.
"When I raise my hands, the mountains will tremble."
Massive props to Z+, and the producer. This is a beautiful piece of work: it creates its own atmosphere, it's dark and slow, playful and understated, sweetly resonant and moving.
I'm so glad they let me play on this record.
Don't talk to me again until you've listened to it.