Will Samson: Ground Luminosity

Brighton-based Will Samson possesses one of the most distinctive singing voices around, yet as satisfying as the vocal songs are on Ground Luminosity, the instrumentals exert as strong an impact. That's not meant as any slight against the songs featuring Samson's fragile falsetto; it's simply that the instrumentals afford more opportunity for the sweetly singing sounds of violin and lapsteel guitar to work their magic, and the material is all the more powerful when they do so. As it turns out, Samson made a conscious effort during the album's creation to cast a stronger eye on the non-vocal parts of his music-making and grant a heavier emphasis to beats and electronics. Brought into being in various locations across Europe and on the northern coast of Portugal, the forty-three-minute collection is certainly the most sumptuous-sounding set Samson's released to date. In addition to lap-steel player Michael Feuerstack, the album also features contributions from Benoit Pioulard (Thomas Meluch) and Message To Bears (Jerome Alexander).

There's no better an example of the instrumental heights Ground Luminosity reaches than “Tumble,” where acoustic guitars, piano, and micro-detailed percussive design provide a warm support to violin and lap-steel colourations; in no more than four minutes, Samson's music casts a spell as entrancing as the wistful memory of a long-ago summer's night. Also on the instrumental front, a waterlogged piano burbles through the title track, its progress augmented by free-form swirls of cymbals and percussion, while “Suspended In” unfolds with delicate, slow-motion deliberation.

A vocal piece such as “Sunbeamer PT1” is no less entrancing, especially when a double-tracked Samson blends low and high pitches of his voice alongside emotive violin expressions and a heavy, skittering beat pulse. Many of the album's eight pieces offer the best of both worlds in featuring vocal and instrument elements in equal proportions; as seductive as Samson's singing is on “When I Was A Mountain,” to cite one example, it's matched by the equally lovely violin solo that surfaces midway through the song.

No review of Samson's music would be complete without some words about his singing, which on this outing is consistently strong. As stirring as “Pyrton Bells” is instrumentally, for instance, the song stands out more than anything else for the almost gospel-styled delivery of his wispy falsetto. Think of Ground Luminosity as wintry, late-night listening whose serenades are best enjoyed with the fireplace crackling, the lights low, and a hot beverage warming your hands.

November 2015