by Tobias Moore
Ben Hall’s latest collection of mid century folk narratives is alive with mystery, joy and a thrilling sense of timelessness
There’s a definite air of reflection that clouds over Melody Shed – an added layer that sets it apart from the lighthearted nature of some of Hall’s previous collections. Instrumentally, the layers are stripped back; no longer hiding under a buoyant caricature, here, Hall is often accompanied by no more than the occasional pitter patter of percussion and lullaby-like guitar pluckings. And what remains is equally endearing.
Anodyne opens with finger pickings fitting for a medieval RPG, and offers a far more personal, reflective experience than we have come to know from the Lancashire native, now Sheffield based songwriter – ‘These times are the silent kind / too shy to increment the passing of time.’ His distinctly unique tonality places you in a Mr Ben snowglobe. Sat, looking up in awe, as his notes fall gently by, Hall has discovered a different way in which to express his theatrics – and seemingly taken influence from label mates, Midlake, to help construct his new musical world.
The beauty of this EP is also shown on These Times, which has a vocal fragility that is presented in its closing falsettos. Leaving you to recount tales of days gone by, it’s here that the musical growths are most evident. But, as if sensing our sorrow, Hall follows with How Do I Get To You? that harks back to the jitterbug pop of his last long player, Life Drawing.
It’s hard not to love Mr Ben and the Bens. For while the occasional onlooker may find his, at times, comical endeavours off putting, to draw the line there would be simply lazy. To see Mr Ben and the Bens as a solely joyous act could not be further from the truth, and perhaps Melody Shed is the release needed to distill these doubts. Because as the curtains draw to a close, and silence turns to applause, what Melody Shed offers is yet another trick to this artisan Jack of all Trades. No longer a mere witty jester – now more a wise bard – Hall has shown a capability in these six tracks to captivate without the need for a song and dance. And if one thing is for sure with this EP, it’s that you never know what to expect with Mr Ben and the Bens – and Hall’s thrilling work lies far from the shallow warmth of predictability.
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