We may live in a world where artists seem to think only as far as the next release, hopping from one event to the next, where the single is king and music seems fleeting and transient, but there are still some who think in more overarching terms. Byorn Gold is one of those people.
His latest release, Life in Hindsight, is just one part of an ongoing song cycle, you might even call it a concept album…or at least an album of concepts. That term may conjure up images of prog-rock leviathans creating unwieldy musical sagas and dense rock operas, but that’s not how Byorn plays it out.
The plan is a simple one. Building up to the release of the full-blown album Hindsight (2020) he will soon start drip-feeding its component songs out at the rate of about one a week. These will be grouped into three chapters dealing with Life (which is where we find ourselves now), then People that we relate to and, finally, Love in both happy and sad variations. These will be book-ended by two songs, both of which helps us to look to the past but also contemplate the future.
Glimpse, the first of these songs, is the opening chapter of this sonic journey. It is a lovely and lilting slice of acoustic pop, laced with some medieval vibes and traditional folk sounds. There is a wonderful rawness and resonance to these archaic string sounds reminiscent of the likes of Loreena McKennit or perhaps Ritchie Blackmore’s later career as one half of Blackmore’s Night. Glimpse is a song both of the here-and-now and taps into some sounds that immediately remind us of the early roots of music but it never feels like it is trying too hard to impose that historical depth, never trying to force the past upon us, it just allows the brain to go there naturally and draw such conclusions of its own volition.
This is quickly followed by Seguiré, a real change of pace and tone, a gently upbeat Latin jive, all sultry sax and endless groove, proof that Byorn Gold is about as an eclectic and genre-hopping artist as you could hope to meet. It was inspired by his time living in Spain, a sonic “note to self” about squeezing every ounce of joy and creativity out of life, to keep writing songs, keep playing guitar, to keep telling stories even if they don’t find an audience for years to come, creativity is its own reward. And, of course, the message comes with plenty of justification as those songs are now, years later, finding their way out into the wider world.
Better Late Than Never is the sound of poised-pop having a shimmy across the dancefloor, effortlessly infectious, life-affirming and instantly loveable and with an important message about patience and reward coiled around its upbeat heart. Not only a universally relatable sentiment but also a personal tale of the artist reuniting with his most loved one after years of them living apart and on different continents.
This first chapter of songs ends with the sassy, swaggering and sentimental I Cry A Tear, which dwells on lives lost too soon; lyrical soul searching put to a soulful sonic backdrop. Again a personal tale, one relating to the loss of school friends and family throughout his life and a tribute to them immortalised in beautiful music and touching lyrics. Never an easy subject to write about but here Byorn is at his most tender and most delicate.
There is a real art to setting out the flow of an album, an art that has by and large been lost in the single-serving, piece-meal world of modern music. Thankfully, there are still artists out there who take pride in such a craft and who go out of their way to keep them alive. And considering the musical ebbs and flows, sounds and styles, tones and textures that make up Life In Hindsight, this opening chapter of Hindsight (2020), you can’t help but be eager to know where the next instalment of songs is going to take us.