Vashti Bunyan is something of a rarity. There aren’t many artists that can claim a thirty five year hiatus between their first and second album. Back in the late Sixties, the folk singer released her debut album Just Another Diamond Day, but little interest was noted and disappointed, ex-art school student Vashti moved out to live on a commune in the Scottish borders, then moved on to Ireland and from there, into obscurity proper.

Bearing in mind the essentially archaic, Sixties tones to Lookaftering, it’s quite amusing that it’s the powers of modern technology that resulted in the album being made. A few years ago Vashti typed her name into an internet search engine and was shocked to discover that Diamond Days was revered as a cult classic and that original pressings of the album were changing hands for obscene amounts of money. Vashti reacquired the rights and masters to her debut and Diamond Days was re-released in 2000 to great critical acclaim. Finally, the time for 2005’s Lookaftering arrived. Produced by Max Richter and recorded at studios in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Lookaftering features contributions from harpist Joanna Newson and Devendra Banhart among many others.

Opening song Lately is a gentle acoustic introduction to Vashti’s sound. The guitar is delicately plucked, and the sparsely arranged song is centred around the intimate tones of Vashti’s soft haunting vocals. She sings gently, a high-pitched warble that weaves in and out of her whispering speech. Here Before brings to mind the pervasive folk of Simon and Garfunkel, while the percussion of the hammer dulcimer trickles like raindrops on a windowpane. Vashti’s vocals fade to make space for the instrumental melodies, her whispered indecipherable words fading on the wind.

A strong piano melody leads the way in Hidden, while Vashti repeatedly whispers “I see you…”, a recorder follows up her refrain and the whole effect is of calming meadows and waterfalls. Same But Different opens with a flute refrain the lush but mournful string quarter fills in whenever Vashti pauses for contemplation. Feet of Clay is all about an electric piano jauntily tripping out a five note melody while Vashti demands “Don’t waste this dance on me”.

Lookafterings consists of eleven songs over thirty five minutes, and is thus relatively short. Consequently each track isn’t as much a structured song progression as an impression of a mood. Each song has unassailably tranquil properties; and to listen to it is to detach the stresses and pressures of the outside world. It is to be held gently in one gorgeously wistful moment in time and become utterly soothed by Vashti’s melancholic vocals. While folk has certainly never been my thing (not enough electric in it, love) it’s really quite remarkable how Vashti draws you willingly into her dream world.

Vashti Bunyan
Lookafterings (2005)

Genre: Folk
Record Label: Fat Cat

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