Music Reviews

Album Review: Novo Amor – Birthplace

Welsh multi-instrumentalist Ali Lacey delivers a virtuous debut album brimming with ambiance and natural beauty.

In a world characterised by conflict and drama, we could all use the cinematic bliss that comes with Ali Lacey, otherwise known as Novo Amor, the Welsh multi-instrumentalist who this week finally releases his long-awaited debut record Birthplace, a record flowing with rustic grace and poignance that transfixes us in a place of tranquility and security.

“His voice rings out like a warning sign of an artist finally reaching his full potential”

A delicate sense of serenity is immediately emblazoned on the record with opening track ‘Emigrate’, which sees violins dancing across Lacey’s pure vocals. From the offset, his voice rings out like a warning sign of an artist finally reaching his full potential. An orchestral section thrusts a pompous energy towards the finale of the track, which is completed with an enriched horn improvisation.

Lacey’s craft in breaking tracks into certain divisions allows him to play around with the musicality of the album. With a guitar line wavering in triplet formation, ‘Anniversary’ carries a sense of sparseness as Lacey opts to induce subtle moments of tranquility before filling the musical void with a twanging banjo rhythm. The track fades to black midway through the lengthy single which then gives Ali Lacey the space to softly rebuild the structure of the song into something of sheer atmospheric beauty as vocals swirl around a chaotic mix of instrumentation.

“Sheer spine-tingling vocal capability”

A calmness dawns on ‘Seneca’, a track detailing the downfall of a Nebraskan community, which opts to strip-back in terms of instrumental complexity in order to highlight the sheer spine-tingling vocal capability that Lacey possesses. His vocals dance along a subdued bed of guitar and strings, intertwining with the instrumentation to solidify the sense of pureness so accustomed in Novo Amor’s work. It’s at moments like these that you ponder why modern life can’t be stripped back to the symbiotic relationship between human and nature.

“He offers important insights into some of society’s biggest issues”

Aside from Novo Amor’s capability to transport you to a more peaceful dimension, he offers important insights into some of society’s biggest issues. Title track ‘Birthplace’ is a powerful message on the fragility of the natural world, with a staccatoed string section pairing with a complex off-beat piano composition. A piece of ethereal beauty, the track, alongside its brutal yet important music video, highlights how the actions of humanity have caused irreversible environmental damage.

Enriched with a passion of life right from the beginning, ‘Utican’ is a forever-moving composition bolstered by the combination of a swift string section, repetitive hand-clap beat and the arrival of a horn section which further ignites a sense of bewilderment of life itself. Focusing on the transformation of relationships, the track specifically transcribes the interactions between father and son, basking in the angelic warmth of Lacey’s falsetto.

Whilst the majority of the tracks on Birthplace carry a valuable lesson lyrically, the importance of ‘13494’ cannot be underestimated. Whilst only a short, seventy-nine seconds long, the instrumental construction acts as a bridge between the lively first half of the record and the more subdued end to the album which starts with ‘State Lines’, a brutally reflective cinematic piece in which Lacey’s vocals take centre stage. Whilst ‘Sleepless’ is perhaps a little too simplistic musically, it basks in a desperation for attention. Lovelorn and heartbroken, Lacey’s vocals once again shimmer against the reliable combination of guitar and strings.

“So good is the composition that the piano line itself creates a mountain of emotion that rivals the rest of the record”

With a delicate piano introduction, ‘Repeat Until Death is a haunting, left-field prospect. Gone are the spontaneous blasts of brass, the single echoes dark tales of drug addiction and proves that simple writing can create hushed moments of brilliance. So good is the composition that the piano line itself creates a mountain of emotion that rivals the rest of the record. It’s almost a shame that one of the highlights of the album is sandwiched between the slightly lacklustre ‘Sleepless’ and the all-too-similar ‘Oh, Round Lake’, which feels more like an album filler rather than the grand finale you would have hoped for. Nevertheless, the lengths Novo Amor has gone to to try and encapsulate the natural beauty our world possesses is applaudable. 

The fact that Birthplace is the kind of record you could listen to in a log cabin in the woods makes it incredibly comparable to the early days of Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens. The sporadic nature of the instrumentation and orchestration throughout Birthplace allows a rich complex of emotion to be projected. Deeply atmospheric, the soundscape of Novo Amor’s debut record has a deep sense of romanticism woven throughout. At first listening, Birthplace feels one dimensional. It’s not until you listen again that you realise the complex fabric of time and space that’s woven into the heart of the record.


Ben Standring

Featured Image courtesy of Novo Amor Official Facebook Page.

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