“When Steve announced that a new album was on its way, it’s fair to say I was pleased. Finally. FINALLY! I was more excited than was probably reasonable or appropriate for a 48-year-old man.
After the announcement, the wait to actually receive the CD seemed interminable. Eventually, it arrived. Beautifully packaged and signed by the great man himself. Instead of playing it, I took a picture on my phone and immediately posted it onto Facebook, as is the norm these days. Don’t judge me, it’s more interesting than the random food and cat images that make up 99% of the Internet.
Next, I had to plan when I was going to get the opportunity to actually listen to it. I would need peace and quiet, no distractions. My eldest had been in hospital and, now home, was bunking off college for the remainder of the week, and his brother would soon be home from school. I adore them but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, THE NEW JANSEN ALBUM IS HERE! I decided that I would force myself to wait until they had gone to bed and then I could relax with a cappuccino (lightly sprinkled with chocolate), a smoke, my headphones and ‘Tender Extinction’. Heaven. Or so I hoped.
Finally, with the boys asleep, I settled down on the sofa for my 1st play through.
My immediate feelings were confusion. This was swiftly coloured by disappointment, with a side-helping of more confusion. I’d been hoping for the return of Nina Kinert and David Sylvian, after their excellent vocal contributions on Slope, but they were nowhere to be seen. I started the first track again but ended up flicking through the whole album very quickly. I was starting to get very worried now. I had waited so long for this album and expected it to blow me away. I wasn’t feeling any of the vocals at all and was starting to wish that Steve had just released the album as a collection of instrumental pieces. Why hadn’t Steve made the album I wanted? WHY?
I woke up the next morning with a decision to make: take the blue pill – give up on the album and go back to the rest of the music that I know and love; or take the red pill – stay in the land of ‘Tender Extinction’, fight past my preconceptions and sense of entitlement, and see how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
I took the red pill.
I listened to the album at every opportunity over the course of the next week. On every play I heard something new; another level was discovered, and deeper and deeper into the rabbit-hole I went.
The album starts with ‘Captured’. Thomas Feiner delivers an incredibly powerful vocal, full of yearning and regret, accompanied by some beautiful music by Steve. The album continues in the same vein throughout; a delicate melancholy. I realised I wasn’t missing a contribution from Sylvian anymore. Unfortunately, that didn’t appear to be the case in some of the online groups who couldn’t seem to move past his absence.
The second track is ‘Sadness’, which I liked immediately. I mostly listen to female vocalists these days and it is wonderful to be introduced to such a sublime and distinctive voice.
Next up is ‘Her Distance’ with Perry Blake on vocals. This is one of the stand-out tracks with Steve breaking out the drum kit for the first time. There was a hint of RTC here for me, and the marriage of Perry’s glorious vocal and Steve’s music are perfect.
‘Memory Of An Imagined Place’ is a lovely instrumental piece with a beautifully haunting cello played by Seigen Tokuzawa. I would have enjoyed hearing more of this on the rest of the album.
‘Give Yourself A Name’, with Tim Elsenburg, was a real surprise. I didn’t like this one at all on first hearing it but the vocal has really grown on me. Perhaps I need to take that red pill again and find the Sweet Billy Pilgrim album that a lovely friend sent me? (NB – that ‘lovely friend’ just happens to be your’s truly, and this was the first time I had heard that he hadn’t been too impressed with my gift. The bastard….VCC)
The next track is ‘Diaphanous One’, another instrumental piece. I enjoyed it but it felt a little out-of-place to me.
Then there is ‘Faced With Nothing’. This was originally released as a single and, I’m sorry to say, I hated it immediately.
The vocal by Nicola Hitchcock grated on me. I listened to it twice and said ‘never again!’ Enough with the wobbly voice already! Hated it. HATED IT.
But, having agreed to take the red pill, I listened to the version on the album. Musically, it is subtly different to the single, and much improved for it. I may be wrong, but I thought the vocal was subtly different also. As the week wore on, the heartrending sorrow and despair in Hitchcock’s voice, coupled with the raw emotion of the lyrics, finally got to me. The tears started to roll down my face. Once it started, I was inconsolable, the wounds of my still-broken heart reopened once again. It is a piece of mournful perfection and the best song on the album.
‘Mending A Secret’ gives us a rare, but brief, opportunity to hear Steve on vocals and it was worth the wait. I also particularly liked his guitar on this song.
The penultimate track is another instrumental, ‘Simple Day’, which maintains the high standard.
Last up is ‘And Birds Sing All Night’ with Steve on singing duties again. This is another real stand-out track with gorgeous flute by Stelios Romaliadis. Steve’s vocal here has a fragile beauty to it and I really hope we hear more in the future.
So, eventually……a truly stunning album. And remember, always take the red pill.”