There is an odd irony in the fact that, if done correctly, music can often catch people’s attention through deftness and understatement as readily as it does through bombast and volume. And if you don’t believe me, give Ben Osborn’s latest release, The Secret, a spin as all the proof you need.
The gentle cascades of guitar seem to carry more weight than all manner of slashed electric guitar riffs, the occasional punctuating piano chime is beguiling in its sparseness and the half-whispered baritone vocals make you lean in to learn more in a way that the obvious and anthemic can never do. He is aided and abetted here by regular collaborator Bethany Roberts, whose additional vocals add atmosphere rather than volume, as does her reverb-drenched banjo.
And behind it all is the distant ticking of a drum machine, just enough to add structure and guide the song but never so intrusive that it takes away from the drifting qualities of the music.
And the delicacy and depth of the song, its subdued power and the inherent poignancy of the music take their cue from the lyrics which Ben himself describes as being”...about what is shared by many but not able to be voiced – the fact of being alive, which is actually a delicate and improbable state – or the fact of being able to love or to be loved. It embodies the delicateness and messiness we always carry with us; even if we hide it as a secret, it’s a secret that everyone knows.”
And the icing on the sonic cake is the gorgeous video which acts as the visual component for this emotive package, which sees dancers Anneke Schwabe and Kira Maria Kirsch translate the meaning and message into graceful movement around Ben as he relates The Secret.
I’m struggling to find a comparison or reference point, which is always a great sign, but somewhere in its hushed tones and spaciousness, I hear the echo of Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan, had they been taken from their indie-folk world and placed in a more alt-pop context.
As graceful and understated as it gets. Glorious stuff.