Completing a compelling trilogy of albums since his late-flowering return to solo songwriting and singing six years ago, Ben Watt releases his fourth LP, "Storm Damage" on 31 January 2020, and with it a new sound and fervency. The first track to be shared is "Sunlight Follows The Night" with an accompanying video by award-winning filmmaker Rahim Moledina, who wrote and directed the video for the title track from Watt's album "Hendra" in 2014.
"Dawn always breaks out of darkness," says Watt of the song. "For all the struggle there's always a way out."
"I needed a fresh approach," says Watt, 56. "The album came out of an intense period of personal anguish and political anger. Sometimes repeating yourself musically feels disrespectful to the sharpness of your feelings. You have to search for a new way to capture the energy."
Across four decades Watt has maintained a committed forward-looking course, from the ardent echo-drenched folk of his early solo work with Robert Wyatt, through seventeen years as musical mainspring and co-lyricist in the best-selling Everything But The Girl with Tracey Thorn - and ten at the helm of his smart electronic label Buzzin' Fly - to his recent moving non-fiction and mid-life solo albums, the award-winning "Hendra" (2014) and "Fever Dream" (2016).
New album "Storm Damage" is no exception. Sonically adventurous, lyrically detailed and engaged, the album - written and produced by Watt - is a personal journey through anxiety and change cut through with an insistent defiance.
"My closest half-brother died unexpectedly in 2016, only four years after my half-sister," he says of events surrounding the album's origins. "I got stuck for a year, angry inside and angry at the political world casually detonating around me. I felt half powerless, half driven. When the songs finally came, some were dark, yes, but there is always room for light. Always. I just tried to put that across."
Sonically the album forgoes the acclaimed twin-guitar approach of its two predecessors, and boldly shifts focus onto - in Watt's words - "a future-retro trio" of upright piano, double bass and hybrid acoustic-electronic drums, set against a half-lit backdrop of lone analogue synths, spiralling echo spins and impressionistic 'found sounds' adapted from online public-domain recording archives. Low's Alan Sparhawk makes a guest appearance on electric guitar and harmony vocal.
"I wanted a timeless-meets-modern live jam - the directness of an unadorned trio capturing the spirit; and the samples, synthetics and electronic boom capturing the psychological mood," he says. "I searched for one-off drones, spoken voices, feedback, urban recordings; not unlike the way I worked in the mid-nineties." (Watt largely produced Everything But The Girl's groundbreaking 1996 album "Walking Wounded", the subject of a recent 9.0 retrospective Pitchfork review and reissued on remastered vinyl this November.)
Emotional and inventive, "Storm Damage" is released on Unmade Road through Caroline International.
UK Tour dates:
Thu 27 Feb - Leeds, Belgrave Music Hall
Fri 28 Feb - Glasgow, Oran Mor
Sat 29 Feb - Newcastle upon Tyne, Cluny
Sun 01 Mar - Manchester, Deaf Institute
Wed 04 Mar - Sheffield, Greystones
Thu 05 Mar - Norwich, Arts Centre
Fri 06 Mar - Cambridge, Portland
Sat 07 Mar - Birmingham, Castle & Falcon
Sun 08 Mar - Liverpool, Phase One
Tue 10 Mar - Bristol, The Fleece
Wed 11 Mar - Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms
Thu 12 Mar - Brighton, Komedia
Sat 14 Mar - London, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Register for priority tickets before Oct 1 at benwatt.com | Tickets on general sale from Oct 4