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HomeMusicM G Boulter – Days of Shaking (Album Review)

M G Boulter – Days of Shaking (Album Review)

M G Boulter is becoming one of those singer-songwriters referred to as a writer’s writer. He certainly has an interesting CV, especially to those in the folk world, counting multiple credits when collaborating with the Simone Felice Group, The Duke And The King, Emily Portman’s Coracle Band, Blue Rose Code, The Owl Service and Jon Boden’s Remnant Kings. Alongside all this though, this Essex musician is now delivering his fourth solo album. Days of Shaking is a bold and mystical set, a record that manages to weld M G Boulter’s suburban, day-to-day life writing with some far-out outer space thinking that gives this song collection many chewy moments; anyone hoping to easily digest each track should think again, a lot is going on here. These songs are interconnected, weaved together by memory and folklore, friendly ghosts, imagined voices in the air and recollections of childhood UFO sightings; it is all about the mysteries of the unexplained and the natural world, meditating on how we make connections in our everyday lives in order to feel some purpose, a path or an enlightenment, whether real, imagined or simply hoped for.

The title track and opener, Days Of Shaking, is a gentle beginning that rises from a haze into view, tentatively finding full focus. It is a musical setting that suits the topic of searching and waiting for a visitation from another realm; it feels like moments before a storm arrives where you can feel the heavy atmosphere and the dampness in the air but have yet to be bludgeoned by the full force of the gale. Quiet also has a lightness of touch, but this time, the intricacy gains and retains the momentum of a pulsing heartbeat. A gorgeous piece reaching high and catching light, the sweet sound and vocals are given a little bite by the presence of an electric guitar that has more than a hint of George Harrison to its curvy sustains. 10 Habits Of Successful People tenderly pulls the heartstrings just as it does those on guitar, strings come waltzing in on a song that clouds itself in mystery. You are not necessarily going to learn too much about those habits from this tune, but the subtext about a kiss caught in a photo booth fascinates all the same.

Silver Birches captures the moments of a man in transition, cutting loose the deep impressions of the past, bathing in shards of light in anticipation of something new. Here, the music is a curious mix of restful and becalmed with a burning flame of life flickering throughout. Talk To Me Of Water continues with a similarly indefatigable shimmering, and this time, we find our narrator marking out shapes on a steamy bathroom mirror, setting his imagination loose with parallels to countries and people only for his dreamworld to burst like a bath bubble when a voice calls through the door. Next, in a song that carries his name, James Mason visits our protagonist in a dream and whispers “you’re not destined for dust, we are all not just destined for dust.” Again, the musical arrangement is consistent with both the lyrics and the overall tone of the album, here it hangs in the air with a perfectly dream like weightlessness, fine and so fragile it could vanish in a heartbeat.

The Masterless Man is carefully removing itself from the material and industrial trappings of our daily routines and seeks to disappear back into the natural, eternal landscapes and hazy distant horizons we are surrounded by but all too often ignore. This all happens to the backdrop of a natural acoustic guitar sound conjuring images of early morning dew, sunsets and roaming wild animals. The Hotel At Midnight cleverly captures the day sleeper upside down life of a hotel nightshift worker; one minute, the only noise is the hum of a vending machine, while others dream, he yearns for sleep, but before we close, daybreak shunts the world back into motion as guests depart to their next destination and life rolls on. It is a running feature in songs that present as largely very thoughtful and tranquil pieces when met at face value but are often a palatable outer coat for some heavy-duty life traumas playing out inside. Fox Running is one such tune, where the wild-eyed fox is used as a metaphor for an unspecified individual who has hit a very real, possibly suicidal, crisis point in their life.

The album arrives at its closing triplet with The Jaws Of Nothing, and as the title suggests, the sense of solitude and isolation is tangible; “and I have wandered and I have found, there is no other who stands here now.” City Map is a song that predicts the closing of the record’s conceptual circle with thoughts of departure, shaking off old baggage and waking up somewhere new. It is burning with the potential that a change might bring. Finally, Blonde Pine closes on a sublime and graceful note, still asking the big questions (“will these memories die when I am gone?”) but staring down the void with a recipe of brightness, hope, imagination, doggedness and zest as the challenge in life’s walk-on part we all play is accepted with vigour. It is a fine conclusion to a record that takes a deep dive into the darkest corners and the toughest dreams and nightmares that visit in those nocturnal hours. It is a journey that displays stunning levels of conceptual actualisation and a satisfying record to be experienced as a whole, where both the collective mood and thoughts make connections and wrap around the entire excursion with consummate ease. M G Boulter has aimed high with this one and taken time to create a full-length work that demands, as well as rewards, deep immersion.

Days of Shaking is released today, 7th June 2024, via Hudson Records.

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