, April 12th, 2013 12:16
Beccy Owen's Drink is the result of the kind of musical workout plan that separates the in-the-blood-maaan muso from the truly obsessive creative type. With the EP's origins in a self-imposed 31 day long song-a-day write/record/upload binge, there's a clear sense of invigoration across these five tracks. Singer and songwriter Beccy Owen has obviously found this working pattern an effective one. In many ways this currently download only EP is made by a very different artist than the one found on her previous releases. In fact if you were to go as far as to put it up her against one of her earliest albums, 2004's The Singer Kicks, you might not necessarily even put two and two together. Where that album was a polished and busy song collection, perhaps overly jazz piano led and fluttery in places, the darker Drink (her darkest material to date) sees the 2013 Beccy Owen emotionally open herself up, albeit elliptically, like she's a Cannibal Corpse cover pin-up.
The limitation of time spent writing/recording hasn't left these songs sounding like half-arsed noodlings or rush jobs either. Instead it's removed the pressures of the demands, the need for layering of instrumentation or the superfluous input of others, leaving something altogether more idiosyncratic – songs imbued with their own character. It's the little touches across Drink, like the rhythmic nods to Outkast's 'Elevators' on 'Kindling Part II' or the wine staggering piano on 'Find Me Gone', that make the record.
The title track, at two and a quarter minutes it's a breathily spindly little thing, is the record's best example of her new imposed sound style. Made of delicate hush-brushed beats, whispers and sharp Celtic harp, 'Drink' has an odd otherly jigsaw feel - like someone put modern pop back together in the early hours with something other than love's young dream on their mind. This balancing act of space, processed and programmed rhythm, real instrumentation and a voice might recall something of the sonics of Protection-era Massive Attack – but unconcerned with that lounge polish; Owen did each of these songs DIY style in under 24 hours. This record's emotional battles feel much deeper than weed psychosis or post-Club worries, Beccy Owen's demons hint at self-protective self-deceit, unkindness and a world shaken. There can't be many more nastier shots doing the rounds than this line from 'The Boy With The Eyes', “He said he couldn't be mine / Not one single minute more / Because he didn't want children that looked like me.”
Owen's voice doesn't spend a whole lot of time sailing blissfully in its higher registers, as if avoiding the upper reaches of self-analytical daylight. Instead her voice seeks comfort/company in its own honeyed tones accompanying itself across Drink. Much has been made in past press blurbs of Owen's angelic voice and range, and on Drinkif there's any similarity to anything particularly angelic then it's the battered worldview of angels Falk and Ganz angel of Wim Wender's creation. The music on Drink is a dented musical armoury, the opening track, and the record's emotional harbinger, 'Kindling Part II' sees a ghost of Mike Garson in the playing. Perhaps with her fingers burnt Owen is less inclined or able to let her fingers do too much light-hearted talking.
This EP feels like a theatrical and dramatic opening movement, the beginning of something that'll go further. Where Drink's first four tracks are a prelude, a set of half-diary pages with the names and incidents removed – the final track 'A Snow Day' is a conclusion to that. Beginning with Owen coaching Bradford primary school kids through a song of betrayal – a blossoming-out of voices before it fades/transforms into a piecing together of multiple Beccy Owen harmonies and parts. As a song that threads innocence, hurt, guidance, comfort, thanks and self-help together so simply, they should be handing 'A Snow Day' out at The Samaritans. The 31 tracks that Drink was drawn from are no longer available online, a couple of them are maybe best left to that SoundCloud grave, but a strong handful are destined for a place on her 2013 album. 31 tracks in 31 days is a testament to an inspiring level of creativity, insert your own comments about lazy indie rockstar if you must. Beccy Owen has set herself a high bar in terms of the songs she needs to match this prelude, and also given herself a peculiar choice of how far to carry this constraint based writing/production style into her songwriting.