Willis Earl Beal was born on the South Side of Chicago, and has had quite a life since then, frequently reinventing himself and flipping between the polar opposites of homelessness or being a self-described “mess” and releasing two critically acclaimed albums on a record label and living in New York City. Tomorrow sees the release of his latest venture on Tender Loving Empire, already with a back catalogue of two EPs and an album – ambient Noctunes and the life leading up to it could be accurately described with Beal’s statement; “people had all these ideas about what I was supposed to be. I had only ever wanted to make lullabies”.
Before I process any further, it’s vital to note that the majority of this album is very similar; don’t expect upbeat ambience drifting into electronica, be more prepared for a sound that seems to creep inside your bones and take over control from you. Though this release maybe a very long one – twelve tracks, almost all of which stretch over the five minute mark – I strongly advise you take the time to consume it in one sitting; evening music, or an antidote to the hustle and bustle of every day life.
Allow the work to play in full, and you’ll find that the faintest hints of piano that appear in the opening seconds will swell and develop throughout Under You, appearing again as the album progresses, and as they do so, they’ll pull you in before you even realise. Building up with the slowest of momentums, the captivating sound somehow manages to dissipate any hint of stress you may have, forcing you to relax and compelling you to continue listening.
Only the faintest of changes marks the tracks apart, although second Flying So Low wraps a sense of desperation into the closing lines, an atmospheric touch entertained again later in the album. More abrupt, Like A Box‘s staccato feel and the whistling opening of Lust offer something in the way of variation, but for the rest of the album a much-0f-a-muchness sound is established.
Whilst Beal’s work is undeniably excellent and the intricacies of the craft are perfected, with such intentionally simplistic lyrics and minimalistic sound, there is a tendency for the album to grow stagnant among the six minute tracks. Drone-fueled Love Is All Around boasts a brilliant, bittersweet delivery of the line, “go the fuck away”, whilst hints of electro pops in Survive spice things up again.
It may not possess drastic changes from track to track, and the melancholy may weigh proceedings down at points, but Noctunes is a cinematic, moving piece of excellence.
You can listen to Stay. below.