2 x 12″ release on 180 gram heavyweight vinyl plus 20 page lyric booklet from the Blue Nile mastermind and cult Scottish figure, Paul Buchanan.
The more I listen to Mid Air, the solo album by Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile, the more I feel like it’s a masterpiece on par with his former band’s Hats. It’s a completely different record of course, 30 years apart. On Mid Air Buchanan has settled deeper into his croon, more confident in its reserve, unafraid to let the plaintive piano softly-played take up space. If Hats was all drum machines, or the 90s and 00s Blue Nile records had bigger productions, acoustic guitars, Mid Air is mostly Buchanan and a piano with some ever so subtle touches. The thread that’s woven through all of Buchanan’s discography is the incredibly subtle cadences he used to describe the human heart.
His art is in suggestion, a vocal delivery that is now almost whispered deep into a condenser mic at 2am, a restraint that never fails to be-still the mania of modern living. The way he uses the vocal melody to tease out memory in the listener, an emotional response that doesn’t even necessarily have to resonate with his lyrics, is masterful. Lyrically, there’s a deep love at the heart of every song that isn’t always romantic but is always full. At the heart of these narratives you get a sense that the writer is always on the brink of fullness, excited about life no matter the sadness in the melodies. Even in the tales of loss on Mid Air the conviction with which Buchanan sings is like having the full emotional spectrum of existence summarised in a second.
A track like I Remember You recalls Frank Sinatra‘s 70’s masterpiece concept album Watertown, it’s sometimes as if Buchanan is covering it but all the orchestration and big studio production has been scrapped leaving the raw core to glow in the night. Buchanan’s songs don’t often threaten to break the listener down, they’re often more like deep stirrings that aren’t always completely discernible. Check out Two Children, with its plain description of family life, the small details of real life, flowers in the window, the vagaries of ageing with other people. “You ask me if I’m grateful? Watch as I fall down to my knees.” Paul ends simply. There are countless moments like this, echoing Mark Hollis‘s post Talk Talk use of space and powerful restraint.
The ghostly feeling of something there but not quite there pervades Mid Air. Buchanan’s art of description, painting with simple means is impressionistic. Nothing fancy, nothing too obtuse, full of feelings there like small kernels to be unpicked.
Tracks: Mid Air / Half The World / Cars In The Garden / Newsroom / I Remember You / Buy A Motor Car / Wedding Party / Two Children / Summer’s On It’s Way / My True Country / Movie Magazine / Tuesday / Fin De Siecle / After Dark / Have You Ever Been Lonely / My True Country / After Dark (Instrumental) / Two Children (Piano version) / Lost / Tuesday (Instrumental) / Half The World / Movie Magazine (Instrumental) / Mid Air / God Is Laughing / Buy A Motor Car (Elegance Mix) / Half The World (Live)
Mid Air (10th Anniversary 2xLP Edition) – Paul Buchanan is no longer in stock