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The Album Leaf
In A Safe Place
Labels UK

our score: 4 out of 5.0

The Album Leaf - In A Safe Place
by: Chris Pickering

Every now and again, you discover an album that can only be described as purely beautiful. Even if your musical tastes are more or less solely featuring hardcore drum and bass, or purely the monotone 50 Cent, you cant help but instantly develop feelings for certain records. The sheer unbridled beauty of Sigur Ros for example is one that a huge number of people have fallen foul to, the Icelandic group's music almost universally described as wonerous, if perhaps leaning a touch too close to the desolate. Jimmy LaValle had been recording solo material as The Album Leaf since 1998, 6 years before this third album In A Safe Place. Yet, little mention seems to go towards the talented American who's musical style and creations have quite blatantly been influenced heavily during to his extensive touring with the Icelandic giants of music Sigur Ros.

The Album Leaf sound seems to take the Sigur Ros influence, and add a unique chilled quality. Though it may lack the extensive use of strings, and the sublime vocal's, it adds its own delightful sounds. Frequent use of stuttering, spluttering beats throughout tracks such as Twenty Two Fourteen in particular shows that LaValle isn't scared to "taint" the beauty that both the piano and string accompaniment shovel on in spades.

On Your Way offers LaValle's first attempt at vocal accompaniment to an Album Leaf track, and with the help of Phil Jenkins of Black Heart Progression, and shows that he has yet another string to add to his already over-stuffed talent base. The chanting mantra of the track offering its own unique hook. But the first half of the album doesn't prepare you for "Over The Pond", the token "weird track". The piano under-current can't help but accentuate the haunting collective sound of a multitude of instruments being strummed, blown and drummed at any one time.

Steamside stands out as a track that feels completely difficult to every other title on the album. Lacking the electronic sounds that haunt almost every other, you can't help but notice the lack of processed beats, merely the presence of a pair of acoustic guitars, bass, cello and accordion. Ultimately, it stands as not only the most soothing, but the one that also develops the strongest sense of imagery.

It's difficult to put my feelings into words when it comes to this album. It's filled with so much beauty, that it's even difficult to pick out any single track as one to define The Album Leaf's sound. It's simply one of those records that no matter what your musical tastes, you simply need to at last give a chance to. To some, it may seem a mess of an album. Detractors will claim the album is merely a repetitive collection of random notes, neither soothing, nor creating an atmosphere that lasts. But there lies the joys of In A Safe Place. It sooths, without instigating the need to focus, and hurtling you towards over-thinking. It's one of those you can happily leave playing in the background while you work, calming you down, collecting your thoughts, yet not stealing an ounce of brain energy for itself.

Personal favorite tracks: "Knockaround", "Water Into Wine" "Place In My Heart"