One fine day, Burial did a remix for Jamie Woon, when the latter was still a rather classic singer-songwriter, and changed his musical perspective. The remix in question, of Jamie’s version of the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger”, was excellent, and for many the expectations of what Woon would do next skyrocketed. In spite of that, it would be another few years before, in 2010, the pair returned with “Night Air”, co-produced by Burial. On this tune, an advance track of “Mirrorwriting”, Burial’s presence was more in the background, giving the track its nocturnal, emotive atmosphere. The song worked well, although it did show something that is now confirmed on the album, especially on the song “Ladyluck”: Woon is more interested in being a soul singer and perhaps following the paths of Adele (of whom he already did a cover at a live show) and Amy Winehouse (with whom he went on tour), than in making an interesting contribution to the crossover between electronica and pop in the vein of James Blake or Katy B.
Furthermore, “Night Air”, by its title, suggests an unnerving comparison with “In the Air Tonight”-era Phil Collins, confirmed here on “Shoulda” and “Middle”, tracks that have the same nocturnal and mysterious atmosphere with shiny production as Collins’ first albums. Curiously, these tracks are the most interesting ones on the album, maybe because, like “In The Air Tonight”, the production ensures a weird but at the same time captivating atmosphere. It’s not the worst Phil Collins they’re reminiscent of, although I hope that Woon’s career won’t go the same way as Genesis’ former drummer. But “Mirrorwriting” is a record moderate in its production: his voice goes for vocal exhibitionism most of the time, putting the singer in a much more favourable position to enter the mainstream than James Blake, whose debut record sounds much more bold than this, in comparison.
After the aforementioned tracks –which make up the first part of the album, including the house of “Street”, the best track–, we enter a second part that is somewhat less attractive: “Echoes”, “Spiral”, “TMRW” and “Waterfront” are slower songs, with the guitar taking on the starring role on some of them, and which sound more predictable, in comparison with the previous tracks. This is with the exception of “Gravity”, on which Woon’s voice floats over a background of slowed-down ambient, with guitar, vocals and percussion slightly manipulated and/or wrapped in reverb.
If he would have pursued the direction of the first part of the album, the final result would have been more interesting, but we get the feeling that Jamie Woon is still deciding which way to go. I suppose it’s up to the public how this record is going to be received, but I hope the second album won’t sound like such raw material for Burial remixes and that the singer will stick to more electronic routes in the future.