Review of Daylight Versions Album by The Leaf Library

When it comes to music, being ambiguous is a quality which some artists value but many fans find a confusing luxury. The Leaf Library are a quartet from London who write songs about rural Suffolk (Amongst other things), water and death. They combine strands of folk, post-rock and ambient drones and frequently find themselves being compared to the likes of Stereolab (A resemblance to which they refute) whilst the bygone phrasing of lead singer Kate Gibson places them in the braces-and-beard rotunda (Which is almost as unreasonable).

The Leaf Library Daylight Versions Album

Daylight Versions is their début album, recorded over an 18 month period in which the band's almost lazy, free-wheeling sound was given a lie by their attention to detail in the studio. Across it they travel, each song a scene, from the pan-psychedelic sketches of opener Asleep Between Stations to the epic, horizon scanning closer Evening Gathers. The latter begins with a sound like chinks of light refracted through a dusty window pane, before building into a tumble of drums and cymbals, it's ragged energy eventually subsiding into the ether, leaving only blankness.

With so much left unspoken, the urge to fill in the empty spaces is almost unconquerable, and despite the meticulous process from which it was shaped, Daylight Versions remains this largely elemental grand canvas. It centres around a slightly less opaque mid-section which consists of the reasonably orthodox tempo and harmonies of Rings of Saturn and the delicate, sporadic eddies of Pushing/Swimming. In this half-world, the joy is in finding something completely unexpected buried between the grooves: scattered like dust, a couple of bars of saxophone interwoven are like a feather, delightfully apropos of nothing.

Perhaps the key is in the band's almost obsession with writing about water, being at it's mercy, or the powerlessness at its natural chaos and order, a backwards looking view that recalls a time when man had less control over its whims than now. On Acre it floods, whilst on the woozy accordion led Sailing Day it serves in its ubiquity as a final place of rest, Gibson's prose giving up the lines "The world turns to sleep/Float away in our beds/The water is over your head" for those ensconced on a last journey. More obscurely, it also dwells in the cyclical patterns of weather, especially on the wet, Spring re-birth of April, it's skeletal violin and rain-drop piano as uncertain the new season, huddled together in the chill.

These are of course unusual obsession for musicians to have, a discourse which leads to craft that defies traditional focus, a muse not rooted in any values as common or contemporary as love. Ashton revealed in interview recently that there's nothing contained here that doesn't hold some kind of meaning: perhaps this is why the whole thing feels at times so overwhelming. De-cluttering it's layers is harder work than perhaps it needs to be, although there is a calmness and innate rhythm which if the listener can locate it, is slightly humbling. Not avant garde then, but not of our robot driven world, Daylight Versions will for many be an enigma, but for the few with whom it connects, could be a revelatory ferry to the banks of the unknown. 

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