CLOSE - Getting Closer
It's just as well that there came a point in Will Saul's career as CLOSE that he decided to cast off the cloak of anonmymity, because his debut album definitely would have dragged him, willingly or otherwise, into the spotlight. The great reception that the earlier CLOSE material received was the reason for his decision to drop the act in the first place; it was delivered with confidence of a man who had been involved in music for the previous decade. Saul founded Aus Music and Simple Records, and has been involved with them for more than 10 years, and released the impressive Space Between album under his own name in 2005. That's the only collection of original material he's put out, but there have been a slew of remixes and 12"s released since then that have kept him current. He's been so involved in shaping the careers of other people that it makes sense that his first album in eight years, Getting Closer, is an even split of solo tracks and collaborations.
There are five of each, and they're all cut from different cloth, but there's a certain connecting thread running through all of them that ensures that the record has an impressive flow. It's a nicely chilled collection, for the most part, opening with 'I Died 1000 Times', which features an impressive vocal performance from Charlene Soraia. It's a minimalistic track which chooses percussion to be its driving force, easing the listener into Saul's world before 'Oscar' shifts things up a gear, opening with washes of synth and a bassline that hearkens back to Saul's earlier involvement in house music. Some of those older elements remain, with 'Time Fades' placing emphasis on rhythm and repetition as it unfolds over five-and-a-half minutes, but elsewhere there are a surprising number of pop songs. Soraia appears again for the the epic lead single 'Beam Me Up', which stretches to seven minutes and is wonderful throughout; it also features an appearance from Scuba, and is the track which has the widest sound range on the album, sounding like it'd feel as much at home in a club as it would on the radio. It's an indicator how easily Saul can blur the lines between more niche styles of music and pure pop.
Similarly impressive is Saul's collaboration with Fink, 'Wallflower', which is introduced in a nicely atmospheric manner, and takes a while to get going, but features an impressive pay-off, with the last minute or so of the track marking one of the album's high points.
Of the solo tracks on offer, 'Cubizm' ranks among Saul's finest work; it's arguably the most spacious track on the album, with everything built around an arpeggiating synth loop and quickly becoming rather busy. It's one of the tracks on the album that gets the most done, but there's more on offer for fans of Saul's more stripped-back material, as well, with 'Future Love's' low-end thump, taking Saul's music in yet another completely different direction. Getting Closer is not an album which can easily be pinned down; it seems to want to accomplish as many things as possible, and Saul shows that he has the skill to pull it off. Hopefullt it won't take another eight years for him to follow this up.