Follow Us on Twitter

Paul Thomas Saunders - Beautiful Desolation (Review)

Paul Thomas Saunders, Beautiful Desolation

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING released two EPs to widespread acclaim, former school chorister Paul Thomas Saunders now releases his debut album and aims for the beautifully epic. Most of the time, he achieves it.

The album derives its name from Buzz Aldrin’s comments upon making his first few steps on the moon and is billed as a record of vast space and atmosphere, driven by this unique artist’s soaring vocal. It has been informed by the Greek electronic composer Vangelis and Jean-Claude Vannier.

You could argue its ambitions are lofty. But Saunders has done his research well. Songs have a habit of sounding cinematic… the opening of Kawai Celeste, for instance, recalling Vangelis’ notable score for The Bounty before heading off on its own direction. It marks the start of a journey that, if cinematic, might be called elegaic.

His vocals, too, possess an ethereal quality that lends them that other-worldly feel. But they also combine sombre reflection with euphoric highs.

Highlights include the aforementioned opening track and Appointment in Samarra, which borrows more from Morricone in its guitar work than Vangelis, and has a grandeur about it that’s utterly gripping. It also underlines Saunders’ potency as a story-teller.

In High Heels Burn It Down, meanwhile, has a futuristic element to its synth arrangements that recalls Vangelis-era Blade Runner, slow-building its way into your heart for 50-seconds, before then dropping a more direct, urgent synth that tip-toes into shimmering synth-pop territory… albeit in Saunders own inimitable style.

And while track names may have the habit of sounding borderline pretentious, such as Santa Muerte’s Lightning & Flare, there’s an intimacy surrounding the lyrics too which is wholly relatable. That track, in particular, is a love-struck offering that is in awe of someone’s beauty and has a bittersweetness underpinning it that taps into loneliness and longing too.

Put together, Saunders has created something enriching and remarkable – an album that deserves to be properly listened to and which consistently charms.

Download picks: Kawai Celeste, Appointment in Samarra, In High Heels Burn It Down, A Lunar Veteran’s Guide To Re-Entry, Santa Muerte’s Lightning & Flare

Track listing:

  1. Kawai Celeste
  2. Good Women
  3. Appointment In Samarra
  4. Waking & Evening Prayers For Rosemary-Mai
  5. In High Heels Burn It Down
  6. Wreckheads & The Female Form
  7. A Lunar Veteran’s Guide To Re-Entry
  8. Starless State Of The Moonless Barrow
  9. Santa Muerte’s Lightning & Flare
  10. On Into The Night