Boomkat Product Review:
Although he may not be one of the city's most instantly visible figures, Danny Saul has been a significant feature on Manchester's musical landscape for almost a decade now, playing in groups like Liondialler (with Greg Haines), Easter, Polythene, Barbarians and perhaps most prominently, Stranger Son Of WB. Harsh, Final is Saul's debut solo album, and takes the form of an experimental singer-songwriter record, comprised chiefly of lengthy pieces that intermingle dismantled, beatless arrangements with largely untreated central vocal parts. The record doesn't hang around getting to its definitive statement: 'Your Death' sets the tone with a web of steel-strung plucks that eventually lead into a fiery, Fennesz-like crackle of digitised, filtered drones and multi-tracked singing that's somewhere between a Thom Yorke song and Richard Youngs' Sapphie. This very fine opening twelve minutes wraps up much as it began, dissolving back to a flutter of acoustic guitar. On the ensuing 'My Escape' the torrent of amplified textures and spartan guitarplucks gradually close in on the central vocal, bringing to mind David Sylvian's Blemish LP in tone and delivery, while next, 'Clockwork' sees Saul cleaning up his act with pristine, metallic slow motion balladry based around sparse acoustic strums and swells of distortion crammed into the outer edges of the mix. There are two parenthetical miniatures '(Harsh)' and '(Final)' bookending the longest track here, 'Cannonball', with the latter of the two proving especially fruitful, bringing to mind one of the shorter pieces on Fennesz's 'Venice' album. 'Cannonball' itself finds Saul edging towards more conventional sonic traits as a songwriter, embracing percussion, fulsome, multilayered production and hook-laden choruses. Finally, 'Stop Escaping' brings the album to a full stop with a cover of a Hotpants Romance ditty performed with skillful fingerpicking and multitracked vocal intricacy. A bold and confident debut from Saul - and one that's imbued with a hi-fi lustre in part thanks to the mastering job by Bjork/Bonnie 'Prince' Billy producer Valgeir Sigurđsson, who proves to be a sympathetic collaborator given the preservation of Saul's raw experimental chicanery and more difficult arrangement tactics. An excellent album - Highly Recommended.