Popmonitor presents: Will Samson (UK, Wichita Recordings) + Guests (tba)
Composer of ambient, folk & electronic music
... has announced details of his fifth album, PARALANGUAGE, his first for Wichita Recordings, which was inspired by his first – and only – experiments with psilocybin. For some time, following the death of his father in 2012, the British musician had suffered from mild PTSD, unable to process the grief provoked by the sudden nature of his passing, but it took him several years before he felt confident enough to explore the possibilities this popular compound was said to offer. Finally, he and his girlfriend retreated to the countryside for a day, and PARALANGUAGE seeks to emulate that experience. Indeed, vocals for two tracks, "Ochre Alps" and "Flowerbed", which he’d been struggling to finish for a number of months, were written and recorded over two subsequent afternoons spent micro-dosing.
Perhaps not surprisingly, PARALANGUAGE – the title chosen because the album’s central themes address the way “our bodies, not just our minds, hold memories and emotions” – is SAMSON’s most cohesive album to date. There’s a conspicuously tender thread running through its eight songs, from "Calescent", its eloquently poignant opener, to "Lacuna’"s fuzzy nostalgia, from "Beyond The Dust"s sweet serenity to "The Smallest Sliver’s redemptive fragility. Samson’s voice, too, has never sounded more moving, committed or confident, his yearning falsetto as touching as his gentle tenor – comparisons to Sufjan Stevens and Patrick Watson are not inappropriate – while his arrangements are intricate yet never ostentatious, with precisely detailed programming inseparable from the warmth of his analogue instrumentation. "Perhaps" Samson observes, "it’s a reflection of feeling more centred and grounded."
Certainly, it’s true that Samson has often displayed a restless nature in both his artistic and personal life. Born in Oxford in 1988, he emigrated soon afterwards with his parents – whose own parents had first met in Kenya – to Western Australia, where he lived for ten years before returning to Oxfordshire. A little over a decade later, he began shifting between Oxford and Berlin, then tried brief spells in Brighton and Lisbon, finally winding up in Brussels, where he’s lived since 2016. It took him a while, too, to settle on a musical direction that suited him. A shy child who was nevertheless a fan of punk, he began learning drums at the age of 12, but slowly gravitated towards the guitar, which allowed him to perform alone rather than rely on a band, while also providing a necessary outlet for him to express himself publicly.
It was, all the same, the mainly instrumental, dramatic post-rock of bands like Do Make Say Think, Stars Of The Lid, Explosions In The Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor – acts to whom he was drawn following At The Drive-In’s revelatory, turn of the century "Relationship Of Command" – that first focussed Samson’s mind during his youth. Later on, he adds, he was drawn to the so-called New Classical scene, and he’s since performed shows with Ólafur Arnalds, while Balance was mastered by Nils Frahm. "In the same way that punk was about knowing a few power chords" he elaborates, "it’s possible to create a striking piano piece with limited knowledge of the instrument. When music is so minimal, each detail has to be carefully considered."