As a one man show, you need to provide something unusual and exciting in order to stand out from the million other solo artists out there. It’s no good passionately belting out another acoustic Bon Iver cover that everybody has heard a thousand times before. The Berlin-based Will Samson has opted for an aesthetic which has, so far, fared well in the modern world of alternative singer-songwriters; drench every song with an unhealthy amount of reverb.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love reverb. I love it so much, that I would pay a lot of money to have a mechanical larynx surgically implanted if it had a “Cathedral Reverb” option. Yet, despite Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends inherent splendour, I can’t help but feel that the reverb is a rather clever cloaking device used to disguise the album’s lack of concise song writing craftsmanship. Of course, not all songs require big catchy choruses and uplifting middle eights, after all, for better or worse, not everyone wants to be Chris Martin. However, a spot of structural focus wouldn’t go amiss on this release. With many of the tracks passing the five minute mark, individual tracks, which begin so promisingly and with beguiling beauty, can quickly become tedious. The sparseness of the recordings and the instrumentation also means that you’re never pleasantly surprised mid-track; the songs set up shop within the first sixty seconds and rarely deviate for the ensuing four minutes.

The album’s saving grace is the man himself, or more specifically, his voice. Somewhere in between Justin Vernon’s ethereal falsetto and Peter Broderick’s characteristic charm, Samson’s vocals hover above the instrumentation like the morning mist gently caressing a meandering stream. It’s just unfortunate that the stream is slow in pace and lacking any real vibrancy or colour.

Album opener ‘My Broken Mirror’ sets the tone for the album as a whole; delicate vocals almost at a whisper, uncomplicated acoustic guitar progressions and simple electric guitar parts which, decorated with ethereal reverberation, gives the song a floating, dreamlike quality. ‘Panda Bears’ does much of the same, except this time a gentle piano echoes throughout and even sparser in terms of production. ‘Find Me In The Ocean’ could be a song by Atlas Sound with the welcome addition of some electronic wizardry, where closing number ‘Great Plains’ would be a fine end to any album, with its melancholic vocals, tender piano and eerie guitar parts, were it not for the fact that it occupies exactly the same ambience of the previous seven tracks.

Will Samson must be on a bit of a downer currently, as this album, despite being undeniably elegant and irresistibly soothing, is perhaps too solemn for its own good and, as a result, a little on the bland side. Nevertheless, if you fancy a break from the aural bombast of squeaky-clean, hyperactive indie-rock or the confuddlement of progressive-avant techno, then Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends could be the perfect comedown.

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