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Nine years isn't so long to wait really, not when you consider the 35 year gap between Vashti Bunyan's 1970 debut Just Another Diamond Day and its eventual follow-up, 2005's Lookaftering. The reasons for that remarkable delay are well documented. If you don't already know, the brief version is that Vashti was so disillusioned with the music business that she moved to Scotland and concentrated on raising a family, deliberately cutting herself off from her previous career until she was encouraged back to make another record by the enthusiasm and fandom of the likes of Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective, and Glen Johnson of Piano Magic.

Heartleap has had a delay of its own however. Whereas Lookaftering was moulded by the arrangements and production of the neo-classical composer Max Richter, this time around Vashti was keen to work again with Robert Kirby, who had arranged three songs on Just Another Diamond Day and was perhaps best known for his work on the classic Nick Drake records of the early seventies. The seeds for this third album were planted in 2007, but work on it stopped for two years when Robert passed away in 2009. Vashti eventually continued to work on the record herself, and Robert's influence is certainly felt on Heartleap, as throughout it the songs hint at that folky melancholy that he was particularly good at conjuring up.

Heartleap is very much a Vashti Bunyan solo record, and apart from a brief guest vocal from Devendra Banhart on 'Holy Smoke', the other musicians that contribute, such as Gareth Dickson and Jo Mango, are mostly the people that have formed her live band over the years. On three songs ('The Boy', 'Blue Shed' and the title track) Vashti does everything, and on 'The Boy' in particular her multi-tracking skills make her sound like the world's quietest guitar ensemble.

The meticulous nature of the recording, with Vashti recording and editing at home, piecing together the arrangements from her one-fingered piano playing and simple guitar parts, meant that these ten songs would be the best part of seven years in the making.

There is something warm and comforting about Heartleap. From a technical point of view, recording on her own and at her own pace meant that Vashti could sing when she felt comfortable, uninhibited by the restrictions of a more formal studio.

The lyrics focus a lot on family life and the fine details within those relationships. Some songs are snapshots of family life, albeit ones from the past, recreated in a subtle, minimal way. 'Blue Shed' is appropriately solo, given that it is about escaping your family, yet also about the loneliness when they have gone.

'Mother' is a beautiful song. Vashti's vocal whispers a reminiscence of secretly catching her own mother dancing or playing piano, "briefly unbound" from the pressures of her life. On 'Shell' she has once again interwoven her guitars beautifully - she is looking back, reflective but not sad - "I fold things just my mother/ into two and into three/ I don't know why I do/ but then I think of you..." is just so simple yet beautiful. Painting pictures with so few words is a rare talent to possess. The recorder and dulcimer arrangement on 'Here' make for another delightfully minimal song, built mostly around words of one syllable.

The magic of this album is to manage to sound like it picked up where Lookaftering left off, whilst arriving at that point by a completely different strategy. Vashti's voice is the voice you expect from her other albums; soft, beautiful and at times haunting, but something about it seems stronger, more assertive. This comes across best on the melodic 'Gunpowder' as she recalls an ex-partner who became difficult to communicate with.

On the previous album Vashti's synth parts were considered a guide and were jettisoned in favour of organic arrangements. Here, with Vashti and producer and arranger, they exist within the songs and sit happily with any of the gentle string parts or woodwind arrangements.

'Across the Water', the fullest arrangement and one of the catchiest melodies here, is filled out with Jo Mango's kalimba making the piece sound like it is drifting at sea, in much the same way as Eno's Another Green World did. This mood continues with 'Holy Smoke', the only "star guest" slot with Devendra's subtle vocal cameo adding to the warmth.

'Jellyfish' tries something different, with the layered vocals and guitar spiralling around each other, contrasting with the synths, as she returns to one of the central themes of her songs - the delicate nature of relationships.

The importance of family relationships is perhaps most evident on the title track. 'Heartleap' is a poetic piece, with every word in the lyrics beginning with "heart-". All instruments and voices are by Vashti, although the song was written quickly after studying what would become the cover painting. It is called Hart's Leap, which like the artwork for Lookaftering, is the work of Vashti's daughter, the acclaimed artist Whyn Lewis.

Vashti has said that Heartleap will be her final album, and with that statement it is as if she has come full circle. For someone who walked away from the music business at the age of 25, it is fitting that she has bookended her career with this album. It has been made on her own terms and in her own time, with her in total control of the finished product. In other words it is a total re-establishment of the self-confidence that she lost in the '60S. Best of all, Heartleap works superbly as a collection of songs, and can only serve to extend and preserve her legacy.

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