Paul Buchanan Paul BuchananMid Air
Just months after the release of “High”, the last album by The Blue Nile, Paul Buchanan did a series of solo concerts that boded an even more uncertain future for a band whose fate had always seemed to be hanging on by a string. Four albums in twenty years - an average of an album every five years, almost nothing - is another clue indicating the fragility of the project. A project that has always been subject to the desire, inspiration and motivation of its leader, one of Scotland’s most emotive singers, but also one of the most evasive, elusive and laziest ones. The appearance of “Mid Air”, eight years later and released under his own name, sort of shoots down any possibility of the group getting back together; especially after the singer himself confessed some time ago that he had lost touch with the band’s keyboard player, Paul Joseph Moore. Consequently – and with the added influence of the death of one of his best friends, an important factor in understanding the tone of this return - Buchanan decided to turn over a new leaf, recording an album accompanied only by a piano and certain very sporadic string arrangements.
“Mid Air” is closely linked to albums like Tom Waits’ “Closing Time”, or Mark Hollis’ self-titled debut. It is music for the wee small hours, sad and nostalgic, which takes advantage of silence as another element in the way it works, formally austere and aesthetically refined. These are short songs, the majority of them lasting less than three minutes, in which Buchanan does what he knows how to do best: he suggests images of broken relationships, sleepless nights, stormy memories, emotional losses, and pedestrians lost in the immensity of a big city. But this time - unlike “High”, for example, which harked back to a more 80s sound, and a somewhat more moth-eaten band dynamic - the way that he materialises his stories of night-time melancholy is timeless, completely indifferent to any context or aesthetic connotation. This is the type of album that you will be able to listen to ten years from now, and it won’t have lost a bit of its effectiveness. This is classicism in the best possible tradition of singer-songwriters with a piano, and with the Scot’s voice as the recognisable, still fascinating leitmotiv of his songs.
Without guitars, bass, drums, or those synthesizers that were his band’s trademark sound for years, Buchanan’s proposal - pure and intimate - sounds even more moving, as if he were stronger than ever. It’s not only his voice that always sounds like it’s about to break, but also the subtlety of the piano accompanying his fragments of life, memory, coldness, and the use of silences and down time that gives a more insomniac tone to the contents. “Half The World”, “Cars In The Garden”, “Wedding Party” and the title song are pearls hidden in a stealthy album that will barely make a sound this year, but which is destined to become the soundtrack to those late nights when you lie sleepless thinking about everything that could have been and never was.