This is a review of "Laura" recorded by Benjamin Wetherill. The review was written by Colin Burrill in 2008.
In the way Bon Iver’s debut album is reaped in the romanticism attached to the isolated log cabin, Leeds folk artist Benjamin Wetherill can claim a similar sense of idealistic beauty in the form of using a derelict 19th century palace on the outskirts of Budapest to record his long-awaited debut album.
Released on Ba Da Bing (home to the likes of Beirut) and Red Deer Club (UK), Benjamin has not only enlisted the help of A Hawk And A Hacksaw’s Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, but the entire Hun Hangar Ensemble too.
Anyone familiar with Wetherill’s frequently outlandish CD-R releases might find themselves surprised by the almost conservative-like approach of this debut release. That said, Laura is still far from conventional - Benjamin maintains his unique vibrato voicing and bewildering ability to capture a sense of the early 20th century with inventive guitar arrangements and a subtle Eastern European orchestral flavour.
Highlights include the horror soundtrack-like undertones in the ‘Ada’, with gentle brass, accordion and cimbalom adding creepy presence. More eerie goodness ensues with beautiful strings, natural bird chirps and Wetherill’s trademark warbling vocals in the superb ‘So Dark The Night’, and the heartbreaking leaving-a-lover-behind tale ‘Shallow Brown’ is likely to be one of the most beautiful songs you’ll hear this year.
The latest chapter in Benjamin Wetherill’s musical career might see him tone down the eccentricity a little, but Laura remains a dark, mildly unsettling and exceptionally well-crafted debut album.