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Dust – Will Lawton and The Alchemists (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Will Lawton and his band of sonic Alchemists have always made music which is challenging to write about. But that is what also makes them one of the most appealing bands to write about too. As a writer you tend to find yourself pulled towards adopting a certain literary tone, one which matches the music to hand…pop reviews are perky and peppy, rock writing full of dramatic dialogue and punchy prose …well, you get the picture. With their music I find myself edging towards descriptions of elegance and eloquence, of grace and grandeur, of poise and, when it is called for, power.

The best music also makes you write in inappropriate language, swerving the usual sonic writing tropes of things being “catchy” or “up and coming”… not that I would ever adopt such slovenly ways. After all, describing the music that Will Lawton and The Alchemist make in general, and Dust in particular, in such purely musical terms is like trying to describe the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel by talking about where Michelangelo bought the paint. That might sound a bit over-dramatic but I think it makes a valid point.

Dust is a song which is built from feelings rather than sonic building blocks, from its reflective opening lyrics to its gently euphoric lift into the song proper, from its ethereal mid-point lull to the song’s resolution which somehow manages to find room for all of those emotions, and more besides. It is a song which is all encompassing. It is heartfelt yet shot through with intellect, emotive and soul-searching and for all its personal narrative, the message is universal. It is a song about the human condition, about our place in the world, about mortality itself.

And musically it is about textures rather than tools, overall holistic as opposed to individual hooks.  The chore, understated piano line being lifted by the beat and the bass as required, softened by the additional vocals. The whole song goes on a sonic journey which neatly reflects the lyrical storyline. Any band which can cover more musical, emotional, intellectual and philosophical ground than most do in an entire career is the sort of music which deserves to be heard far and wide.

Even after having this on constant replay and exploring the song in forensic detail…well, enough to write a meaningful review at least, I still don’t know what genre you would call it, if you still think that such things are important (they’re not.) But whatever you choose to call it, you would have to put the letters Ph.D. after it. That’s how damned smart the song is!

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