Secret Meeting score: 75
by Philip Moss
Wild Beasts always stood outside of the crowd. Deep rooted in art rock tendencies, they grew a cult following, but without every veering away from their principles. When they called it a day in 2017, again, they did so on their own terms while they were still on an upward trajectory. Since then, it’s been silence from all four members of the Kendal based group. Two years on, singer, Hayden Thorpe’s Diviner LP gently breaks it.
The opening title track is stripped back to voice, spacious piano and fleeting ambient drum machines. As he told Clash, ‘I broke up with myself. So this is a break-up album, but not about a relationship. It’s a break-up from a past self, it’s a breakup from the old idea of yourself,’ and this contemplative mood runs throughout – ‘I’m a keeper of secrets, pray to tell.’ In terms of references to his former guise, there are hints of Smother, but it actually falls closer to the work of Anohni.
Brian Eno collaborator, Leo Abrahams, takes up production duties and is the ideal foil for Thorpe – tonally, his soundscapes give Thorpe’s special voice the space to bloom. On Straight Lines, the pre-chorus is borderline chart pop, but without losing the melancholic atmosphere that runs throughout. Love Crimes sees Thorpe rhythmically reference Wild Beasts on another addictive nugget. While the record ironically peaks with Anywhen – one of its most understated moments. However, Earthly Needs is more moody than magic, and Stop Motion doesn’t pack the emotional impact it threatens to.
Throughout, the sensation transmitted from Diviner is how personal it feels – gone is the extravagance of Thorpe’s former work, replaced by lugubrious reflection. While there are flashes of his former work, this is not a case of ‘ex-frontman of band releases a solo record that sounds like ex-band’ as is so often the case. Diviner is a more challenging prospect and its meticulous construction has clearly been laboured over – with a deep sense of self buried into every note. And while it has its flaws, it is most certainly a true representation of himself as an artist. For that, Thorpe must be applauded.