There is a definite sense of movement on Will Samson's new album 'Active Imagination', not the restless type, more the meandering, lulling type. Largely singing in a falsetto across the album, his vocal sits pleasantly above the warm, hazy sounds lovingly imbued with tape saturation. There is a sparseness in the sound generally, with electronic textures and bubbling arpeggios flickering around fingerpicked guitar lines and almost vanishing drum beats. It’s a sound that could comfortably be described as dream-folk, and indeed the lyrics for the album where largely written through Samson exploring lucid dream techniques.
It’s astonishing to learn that 'Active Imagination' is Samson’s seventh studio album, largely existing in underground scenes until his previous album 'Paralanguage' saw him briefly raise his head above the parapet. It is on this new album that Samson explores his own heritage explicitly for the first time; born in the UK before spending substantial time between Australia, Germany, Belgium and various towns in UK he is currently residing in Lisbon, Portugal. The motive behind this propensity for globetrotting might well be found in his family tree: his maternal grandparents, for instance, were born in Chile and West Bengal before meeting in Kenya and he has talked around this album about feeling like he has no ancestral home.
The album begins with one of the standout tracks - and the lead single - 'Arpy' which sets the tone nicely with its winsome melodies and tasteful production. 'Two Flutes' does a similar job, before evolving into a taut, percussive stomp that could mark it out as a live favourite. The album ends with the sombre 'Shun', an incredibly delicate production, so fragile that you feel it could fall away at any moment.
Perhaps the calmness in his music belies his natural wanderlust, or maybe a life spent travelling makes him crave a gentle pace and stable place. Either way, whilst this doesn’t feel like Samson’s defining record exactly, we are offered the chance to glimpse an intriguing artist expressing his search through music.
Words: Nicolas Graves
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