Ben Howard: Global Transmission from Goonhilly Earth Station live stream
Ben Howard carved out an expansive niche for himself with the gentle neo-folk resonance of his early releases, but this year’s Collections from the Whiteout shows that he has since branched far beyond his debut, navigating the tributaries of what is all too vaguely termed “the experimental”, alongside collaborator Aaron Dessner (of The National). The resulting record hints at more than the sum of its parts, staying true to a misty, folk-infused tradition while exploring distorted potentials in its guitars and ambiguous, often veering towards abstract, referents in its lyrics.
This broadcast concert marks Howard’s first performance since January 2019, and the live premiere of these new tracks, in an effort that channels not just the talents of Howard and his band, but also the windswept, inevitably eerie landscapes surrounding the Goonhilly Earth Station. Standout tracks including rhythmic but verbally disjointed single Crowhurst’s Meme and the ballad-like, meandering meditation Make Arrangements are well suited to the towering grey cloud and uninterrupted horizon offered by the location. Thoughtfully layered vocal harmonies and a careful touch applied to the amps create a sense of ample space and time – nothing about Howard’s work ever feels rushed, and even the more unsettling tracks (see Far Out, or even Unfurling for the immersive experience) allow the listener to catch their breath, veering much closer to pensive than morose in tone.
This marriage of a well-rehearsed band, guitar sound manipulation to pique the curiosity of musicians both amateur and professional, and – of course – the enduringly excellent indigenous traditions of Gaelic music, which structure this record, works seamlessly, and everyone involved is wishing the happy couple (the album, that is, to push this imagery to its limit) a successful future. Whether through luck, skill, inspiration, or more likely a combination of all three, Howard has achieved the improbable: creating a record that carries everything his loyal fans are looking for, but with music more nuanced, more contemplative, more unpredictable – that is, better – than they’ve heard from him before.
For further information and future events visit Ben Howard: Global Transmission from Goonhilly Earth Station Livestream’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Crowhurst’s Meme here: