Leo Abrahams Zero Sum Review

Album. Released 2013.  

BBC Review

Prized session guitarist teases with six tracks of graceful simplicity.

Wyndham Wallace 2013

There’s a wonderful moment in That’s What You Do – from Leo Abrahams’ latest mini-album, six tracks lasting an all-too-brief 25 minutes – where guitars and strings shimmer as he sings, passionately striving for high notes, of how “all the joy in this world is dancing around you”.

It can’t help but remind one of Richard Hawley in its grand, romantic sweep, and it turns out starry-eyed sentiment is not the only thing they share.

Like Hawley, Abrahams has worked with Pulp and built up an enviable reputation as a session guitarist for the likes of Brian Eno, Imogen Heap and Marianne Faithful. He’s also acted as producer for, amongst others, Paolo Nutini and Carl Barât.

Abraham’s solo albums to date, however, have been ambient affairs full of New Age-y textures, so this outing – arriving three years after his last, December Songs – is unexpected.

While the atmosphere remains peaceful, these are carefully crafted, beautifully realised songs that are over far too soon.

On Winter Kiss he conjures up a folksy world of hushed harmonies, sparse percussion and ethereal drones, while Sleep Here is decorated with subtle piano and cello embellishments that match lyrics about love’s slow demise amid “lights going out tonight, one by one”.

Abraham’s lyrics are one of many pleasures here, his eye for arresting images regularly on display. “Life got on top of me like a big brown dog,” he sings on the delicate, touching A Different Kind of Wrong, adding, “I wake like a drunk and sleep like a log.”

No More Unto Silence, too, boasts striking lines like “evening fell upon the green as graceful as a guillotine” and “love will come to violence as we hide behind its name”.

Closing track Time Take Me Back concludes this collection on a serene note, its brushed snare and cymbals matching the restrained arrangements.

But it’s No More Unto Silence that really encapsulates the album’s magic, its stumbling rhythm always surprising, its zither emphasising an almost baroque elegance, making this tantalisingly seductive from start to end.

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