Upon Ayr is the debut solo album from Fletcher, AKA multi-instrumentalist Ben Fletcher who was formerly a member of Bluebottle Kiss and The Devoted Few. It is a vivid collection of guitar pop and indie folk music. Here, Fletcher puts an emphasis on pure storytelling; something he feels has been remiss in contemporary music.
Fletcher has long been inspired by the work of Thomas Wolfe and Jack Kerouac but their influence is especially apparent across these ten tracks. The record was written and produced over a period of two years while he was on the road touring Europe as a member of Sarah Blasko’s band. As such, a lot of the lyrical themes deal with things like travel, undergoing journeys and the uncertainty a nomad typically faces where they are unsure where their home is (meaning that comparisons to Kerouac’s On The Road and Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again are certainly apt).
The recording process was a simple one where stolen moments were put to good use and culminated in sessions in Sydney, a London bathroom and studios in Stockholm and Berlin. There was a relaxed feeling because Fletcher thought he was only recording demos and this has often found its way into many of the songs. The relaxed atmosphere was also created by the presence of Fletcher’s good friends with Sarah Blasko providing backing vocals on four tracks and the drummer and keyboardist from her live band, Fredrik Rundqvist and David Hunt, respectively, also contributing.
“It’s Coming for us” crystallises the album into a single offering, as it’s a twinkly pop number and sign of things to come. There is a perfect duality here as the sombre side of travelling is coupled with some beautiful and ethereal sounds. “Open Up” extends this theme and is about the elements in life that can pass us by. It also complements the music video Fletcher made, where he made sure to document a moment from every single day of his life for a period of three months.
Another big theme on this record is the demise of a relationship with single, “Don’t Breathe a Word” a guitar-picked folk tome about the cold, dark place you can find yourself in where the love you once felt for your partner is lost. “Strangers Sleeping in the Same Bed” again picks up on this theme and this is where the album truly peaks and shines.
The music is as evocative and atmospheric as Ben’s Bluebottle Kiss days but there is also some of the romantic and vivid imagery typically found in a Neil Finn number combined with the sheer romantic confusion that underpins Fleetwood Mac’s music. It’s all domestic tears, struggles and sadness where the cadences reverberate from the front door to the kitchen and bedroom in what is an epic tussle. “Strangers…” is really amazing stuff!
For those people thinking Fletcher only does “misery pop” then you should note that the mood does lighten on “Swim through the Mouth of the Whale”. This one is the kind of pop soundscape that is gentle and playful as it teases and tickles. But final track, “The Golden Moon & the Silver Sun” is a real head-scratcher. It has the dreamy guitar quality of George Harrison’s work but is a predominantly instrumental, mystical ode to mermaids and is perhaps best left to another place and time.
Upon Ayr is a rich, sensitive and pretty album. It is a really vivid affair that is full of pictures and cerebral sentimentality meaning you could easily bathe yourself in its light and get lost in the melodies and feeling. In short, it’s a whimsical and organic record that is full of maturity and is as inspiring as a good book.
Originally published on 13 April 2013 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/fletcher—upon-ayr-13042013.html
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