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John Bramwell - Leave Alone The Empty Spaces (Review)

John Bramwell, Leave Alone The Empty Spaces

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I AM Kloot’s songwriter and frontman, John Bramwell, delivers his debut studio solo album in the form of Leave Alone The Empty Spaces and provides plenty of food for thought.

Inspired by his travels around the UK and Europe performing more than 300, intimate solo gigs, this is a frequently intimate journey that flits between the deeply personal and the occasionally cinematic.

Travelling in his campervan with his dog, Henry, the experience allowed John to explore parts of the country hitherto unknown, develop his solo sound and ideas, and meet an awful lot of interesting people.

The album embodies the spirit of liberty, independence, adventure and solitude that John has enjoyed on the road, as well as the diverse emotions that escape and travel can bring about – from sadness to exhilaration.

It begins in almost melancholy, cinematic fashion with the instrumental A Field Full of Secrets, which transports the listener back to classic road movies (a la Sam Mendes’ Road To Perdition or Terence Malick’s Badlands), thanks to some disarmingly beautiful piano chords and atmospheric electronics. It’s a striking start.

Who Is Anybody? follows with a more robust acoustic guitar lick. It’s a questioning record, contemplating the meaning of life, which adds to the thought-provoking nature of that opening instrumental. But it’s also more folk-rock in make-up, meaning that it has a greater sense of urgency and, arguably, accessibility.

The pace slows for the similarly enjoyable Time’s Arrow, which is built around another simple but beautifully delivered acoustic guitar arrangement. Again, it questions the meaning of life, but poses further questions rather than re-treading old ground. And it’s nicely delivered.

There’s a sense of the open road on the more expansive From The Shore, which includes bass, pedal steel and drums to waltz-like effect. It has real momentum and propels that journey-ish feel that inspired the songs.

At times, Brmawell’s songwriting composition and vocal delivery reminded me of artists like Andy Burrows and Turin Brakes, which is no small compliment. But Bramwell is very much doing his own thing too and he genuinely endears. Leave Alone The Empty Spaces is the type of offering that rewards the patient listener, getting better with each listen.

Further highlights come from The Whipperwill, another reflective offering that conjures images of natural beauty while posing more questions, and title track Leave Alone The Empty Spaces, which benefits from being more instrumentally layered (the guitar is, again, striking). In the latter’s case, there’s a cautious sense of optimism creeping into the lyrics (“I go laughing as I lumber out into the day”), which once again cheers the listener.

But no matter what mood Bramwell is conveying, his debut album comforts as much as it makes you ponder the things that may matter to your own life. It’s a musical journey well worth taking.

Download picks: A Field Full of Secrets, Who Is Anybody?, From The Shore, Time’s Arrow, The Whipperwill, Leave Alone The Empty Spaces

Track listing:

  1. A Field Full of Secrets
  2. Who Is Anybody?
  3. Time’s Arrow
  4. From The Shore
  5. Sat Beneath The Lightning Tree
  6. The Whipperwill
  7. Wherever I Go, Whoever You Are
  8. Leave Alone The Empty Spaces
  9. Meet Me At The Station