Saturday, 3 November 2012

Thirteen Lost & Found

RM Hubbert
Thirteen Lost & Found
Chemikal Underground


As mentioned in our recent live review, I have seen RM Hubbert perform three times this year. Yet it took until the third for me to purchase his album. There are many possible reasons for this; the slow burning nature of the music, the fact I was drunk out of my mind at the Aidan Moffat show at Brudenell, the loss on the door I was mourning when he visited with Emma Pollock or perhaps just the fact I don't have much money. But it was never because I didn’t want to own it, because those three shows were all sublime.

RM Hubbert is from Glasgow. He is a man with a guitar. A lot of his songs are instrumentals, played purely with his acoustic. On some he sings, and on this record he gets a couple of guests along to help him flesh it out.

I frame this in such unspectacular language as this is part of the magic of RM Hubbert live, and now also on this album. There is no studio trickery, no dense lyric to pour over and no sense of hype or anticipation. Yet the songs pack a greater emotional punch than almost anything else I have heard this year, which on this scale of minimalism is impressive in the extreme.

Hubby is a supremely talented guitarist in a pleasingly un-showy way. He finger picks gently, etching in his own counter melodies, all with a wistful sense of fresh air, evenings musing by log fires or long drives through the night. The stories are not told with words but through the veering structures, moving from delicate sections to huge open tuning strums, all contributing to the twists and turns of a narrative. Although vastly different musically, some sections remind me of the atmospheres of Godspeed You! Black Emperor in their glowering mystery.

This album’s added accompaniment is subtle, but enough to draw a proper album out of the basics (meaning one that flows and has a life over it’s 40 minutes). Second track Car Song featuring Aidan Moffat is a definite highlight, the fellow Scot's growling monologue custom built to sit over the smart backing. We catch glimpses of organ and piano but generally, bar further guest spots (including Emma Pollock), this is very much Hubby's world. Like a supremely talented water colourist, he manages to say more with delicate strokes and washes, where others would spray paint their ideas, bold and brash, and often quite boring for it.

I will concede that seeing Hubby live has heightened my enjoyment no end. Hearing about some of the trials he has faced through his life and how his music has ended up help him deal with them added something to the music, but that such things didn’t result in heart on sleeve, literal retellings on those tales adds a greater depth to this record. It's an album that draws you in, but doesn’t give you any conclusions. That's the slow burning element of it that I love. Deeply evocative, but what of is up to you.

Dean Freeman

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