Our Daily Bread 503: Bleak Soul ‘Shouting With Nothing To Say’

March 17, 2022

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Bleak Soul ‘Shouting With Nothing To Say’
(Beth Shalom) 11th March 2022

Thankfully there’s so much more to the despondent, forlorn Bleak Soul alias of the former As It Is band member Benjamin Langford-Biss: but we shall come to that later.

Free of artifice, and indeed living through some of the bleakest of times, and just as pissed at the tech giant evangelists who’ve overstated goodwill by skewering our connectivity to their own ends, Benjamin is more than a little miffed at the continual struggle to both succeed in and feel wanted in an algorithm led state. In the new album’s press package, in candid flow, he puts his finger on the mentally draining and divisive failures of the Internet; or rather the manner in which those with the biggest gob, and those who are willing to share every minute of their on-trend vacuous lives (where even mental health has been hijacked to suit whatever purpose it sells, or is used to attract more followers).

The 24/7 feeds of attention grabs can – if you let it or get swallowed in to its orbit – pressure you into self-doubt. It could lead to, as this affected troubadour puts it; a “self-aware reflection on my own need to tell a story in order to feel like I have purpose.” This is both a very honest statement and also a sad state of affairs.

Shouting With Nothing To Say, the second album under the Bleak Soul name, is an exploration of that sentiment; a mood board of feelings let loose into the world that spans the time Benjamin spent intensively touring as part of the Brighton-based transatlantic rockers As It Is (which he stepped back from a few years back) and the here and now. And so we have a musical photo book of memories that both with a certain weepy malady and more rawkish tumult notes lyrical chapters, catharsis, momentary emotional draws, but above all document life changes.

This soundtrack album features recurring motifs and vignettes and time lapsed returns to memorable realisations. In that mode Benjamin keeps coming back to a freezing cold Denver; the backdrop scene of miserable scores for weed, the sofa surfing lifestyle and a cab ride into divided America – our passenger regretting but keeping quiet whilst the driver vents his spleen and hands out unwanted advice. There’s some nice songwriting touches, moments of bathos and pathos in this Denver trilogy; the ‘2015’ visit recall is in a gentle acoustic style, whilst the first return trip, in ‘2018’, has a warmed feel of trip-hop like drums, cooing atmospherics and what sounds like a bottle-tapping marimba. ‘2019’ is dreamy in the beginning but then opens the door to thunder deep thudded timpani. Within that cycle Benjamin is both lost and found; delivering with wistful ease a contradiction of feeling simultaneously “dying inside” yet achingly sighing that he’d “kill to be there” back in an ice-covered car park, shivering and facing a near-fatal crash.     

 Oh, there’s pain in these songs all right; played out to both more sparse, haunted and intimate atmospheres, or, with a full amped-up rock band in support. You hear the amp buzz and a click in the dying seconds of the burnished cymbal, synthesized and watery piano emotive vignette ‘Nothing To Say #01’ before it rips into the powered-up, grunge-y rocking single ‘Mundane, USA’: a sort of wake-up but also a sanctuary emotional state in which Benjamin finds comfort as he yearns for the simpler things that make us all human. Em Lodge form the rock band Delaire The Liar guests on the next rocker, ‘Forever Age’; shadowing Benjamin, but also in apparitional diaphanous mode cooing far more lofty heights on a lamentable quasi-duet of flange guitar U2 like strains and neon flickers. The downcast ‘Void We Share’ looks into a soulless matrix; even going as far as to sound a bit like a mix of trip-hop Bowie, Gary Numan and, later on, a baggy House Of Love. It must be said that the electrified woozy weepy ‘Broken Neon Light’ isn’t a million miles from R.E.M.

O.K. so I’d admit Bleak Soul is a fairly correct appellation: there is indeed plenty of suffering and plaintive resignation on display. Yet Benjamin brings it back round with a healthier dose of canoodled optimism on the ‘End Credits/Title Track’ finale: an acoustic Why? that follows on from an actual vocal-less (‘Nothing To Share #02’) regression back to a musical mobile twinkled cot: a geometric mirror-y return to a less worldly, knowing safe haven.  

Shedding anxieties with a rawness that’s neither whining nor irksome, Benjamin’s bleak shadowed soul unloads: and you should listen: A very rich, musically changing songbook that would make a great, if at times painful, photo album soundtrack.

CELEBRATIONS: In case you missed it, the Monolith Cocktail recently reached the 500th edition of Our Daily Bread posts. To mark the occasions we’ve put together, in chronological order, three behemoth size playlists featuring a track from every release featured over the course of that, so far, decade-running series.

https://open.spotify.com/user/dominicvalvona/playlist/0TOAkEliwHhMX0qcLDKND8

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