Will Samson – Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends – CD
2011 PLOP/NATURE BLISS Distributed in USA by Darla
Tracks 1) My Broken Mirror, 2) Panda Bears, 3) Meet me at Home, 4) Find me in the Ocean, 5) Violins and Polaroids, 6) Sleeping, 7) Friends, 8) Great Plains
I know very little of Will Samson’s prior project “Himalaya” other than some youtube video uploads, but I picked up his new album “Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends” after reading a description at online music merchant Darla.com, and I took a chance. After a number of years of searching for, acquiring and tweaking various pieces of vintage and new audio equipment, I have finally turned back to finding new music as well as revisiting old friends and their new material on both CD and vinyl. I like all sorts of music, except angry-man-head-bangin’ rap and heavy metal of a similar ilk.
Samson is of diverse national heritage (Chilean, Indian and Italian), born in England, lived in Australia and currently resides in Berlin, Germany. I was instantly struck by the power of this deeply personal album. It’s a real gem. Most music takes time to grow on me, often with eight or ten listens of an album, and even then, I might have only two or three favorite pieces.
It is evident that the young Mr. Samson is on a voyage of discovery—both sonic and life. I was also drawn to the story behind the music (journeying though Europe, Asia and the Himalayas at 19, one way ticket, self-doubt, celebration, loneliness & joyfulness), but only after hearing the album and wanting to know more. Some might classify his work as ambient, folk, indie and when loaded into iTunes it curiously comes up classified as “pop”. This music just takes the World and slows it down allowing for contemplation of the music and perhaps various issues that consume one’s own life. The songs are beautifully crafted, in a way, similar to F. M. Cornog’s (of East River Pipe), yet they lack the edgy subjects and politics that F. M. often explores.
The first piece on the CD, “My Broken Mirror” starts with a shimmering of acoustic guitar and what appears to be a light electric guitar overdub used almost like a horn, to beckon the listener mournfully “Ooo…it’s going to get easier…”. Yet the spirit of the music is uplifting and optimistic. Later on in the CD ,“Friends” is reminiscent of Anthony Phillips’ beautiful piece “God if I saw Her Now” from his first solo album “The Geese and the Ghost”. Every piece on “Hello Friends…” stands on its own, yet all function well together as a collective whole.
The recordings are stark (made with an eight-track recorder, a gift from his father before his travels and mixed by Samson) and there are many ambient sounds deep in the soundstage, footsteps across a room, the inner workings of a piano or the click of the recorder’s controls. Will Samson mixes his normal and falsetto voices in various pieces, almost chants of sorts and for some this may be bothersome, but stick with it. The supporting instrumentation appears to be parlor guitar, electric guitar with some effects, bass and piano with minimal electronic treatments and light percussion.
The album is an intimate personal meditation, yet is sonically broad like the mountainscapes depicted in the cover art. The CD’s jacket is a small gate-fold LP, typical of many Japanese releases. The album is little over thirty-eight minutes, which is far too short and leaves me wanting more, but one can be rewarded again with the replay button. This is the kind of album that makes me want to buy copies and give them to as many friends as I can think who would appreciate something as beautiful and rare as this album is.
Appeared in the September, 2011 Hifi Zine: http://www.hifizine.com/issues/september-2011/