There is a point in the process of trying to describe an album where genres and other such journalistic shorthand just doesn’t cut it anymore. Then again, Nick Hudson, whether in solo form, as he is here, via bands such as The Academy of Sun or collaborating with such original minds as Mogwai or members of Massive Attack, has always been impossible to pin down. So why try?
Five years on and well worth the wait, Font Of Human Fractures is immediately gorgeous, a place where neo-classic lines run across lush chamber-pop inventiveness, where avant-garde creativity blossoms into unparalleled and unusual beauty, where rules and direction are replaced by music which is only concerned with mood and emotion. And of course meaning.
Musically, it is otherworldly, tethered by a sonic core of piano and violin yet gently pushed to, and sometimes beyond, its logical limits by the inclusion of the occasional beat and masterful electronic manipulation. But it isn’t just about musical depth, lyrically there is much to ponder to and although Nick is musing on a variety of issues from a very personal perspective, the dialogues that he has with himself, his younger self and perhaps even alternative versions of himself, also have relevance and resonance for anyone who knows how to listen. (Not something which everyone seems to have these days.)
Voyeur’s Who Offer Nothing is constructed of pure grace, Matryoshka errs on the side of groove, though generally, most songs shift effortlessly between the two to build their magical soundscapes. The Ballad Of K69996 Roma dances deftly from one melancholic classical stepping stone to the next to complete its sonic journey and Dambala is chilled, odd and full of anticipation.
Even when Nick is working with recognisable forms he takes them into new realms, his classical sounds are often edgy and atmospheric, his MIDI creations able to be beautiful and understated, his beats are often odd and always addictive. The roles and results of the analogue and the digital as well as the past and the present, able to switch functions and confound expectation brilliantly.
Font Of Human Fractures reminds us that the variety and beauty of music are less about the instrument being played and more about the vision of the person directing it. That sounds are merely tools. That anything, in the right hands, can be turned into something beguiling, unexpected, poignant, sad, euphoric, heartfelt, weird, wonderful and everything in between.
Nick Hudson is most definitely the right pair of hands.