by Jo Higgs
big traverses a growth of character and of music that is intertwined and overlapping, but crucially carried by wonderful melodies
Belgian-born and Glasgow-based singer-songwriter, Loup Havenith, writes music with a peculiar intimacy. His second album, big, is a testament to the wilding fear of living – an open-invite confessional to be carefully delivered in poetry accompanied by increasingly voluminous instrumentation.
So much of this project is about growth and change. Of course, there’s a lot of thematic detailing about maturing and improving as a person, but, quite literally, as Havenith points out, there is a sonic progression throughout the record. ‘It’s very chronological,’ he tells us. ‘The first track, big, is all recorded on a four-track apart from the drums. paris, texas only has guitar left from the four-track, but, at the end, heaven has none of it.’
Every inch of the album sounds wonderful and just as it was intended to, but there’s a sense that proceedingly there’s more of a hi-spec emphasis. The arrangements of on your own again and heaven reach tantalising heights that almost seemed inconceivable to be formally derived from Havenith’s lovely debut album, BRING YOURSELF TO COMPLETION, and even early cuts from big, such as the title track.
‘I really wanted it to be a crescendo,’ Havenith notes. ‘Obviously, it oscillates throughout, but the last song is much more explosive than anything else I’ve released within my solo project.’ The changes are seamless and result in a transition that is nothing but natural.
Not only does the sonic progression of the album mirror its core themes, but its structure and brevity symbolically reflects the ideas of paris, texas. ‘It’s just about a feeling of occasionally being fed up with people that are kind of performative in conversations. Like saying things that lack any self-awareness and just take up unnecessary space,’ Havenith laughs. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that big is a mere seventeen minutes long and only one comparable behemoth of a tune breaches the three minute mark. Havenith reveals that there was a large pool of tracks loosely in contention to make the cut, but ultimately, most weren’t good enough or didn’t tie in as cohesively as the final seven do. He even considers it’s not necessarily an album: ‘it’s just a collection of songs and I’ve got to put a name on it. A lot of the technicalities of what’s an EP or an album are arbitrary and unnecessary.’ In the end, whether the term album is merely nominal or if it’s perfectly founded, it’s a length that feels true to its content; it breathes and burns at a pace that couldn’t be more sympathetic to its themes.
With umbrella-termed ‘singer-songwriter’ music, there’s an ever-present self-consciousness about being true to your intentions, but avoiding clichés and pretension. ‘That’s one thing I’ve been trying to shed, and I think has made this album better,’ Havenith says. ‘Just the self-consciousness that I carry in my everyday life that affects what I say and do. I’ve tried to limit that and set up writing as a space for myself in which I know I’m not being judged. It can often mean that there’s a lack of self-regulation or self-awareness, so I’ve occasionally had to rework a few things because you begin to ride really hard on your own personal clichés.’
To risk pointing out the obvious, one downfall of creating a sort of protective buffer from the world in which you can write intimately personal music with no outside influence is that eventually it does reach that scary real world of people. true love gone is a song as personal as they come, delineating a relationship falling apart and grappling with holding memories of it. ‘I hadn’t thought of it as an elegy, but that does make sense – it’s about remembrance’, he considers. ‘I’m compulsive in that it’s important for me to write things that chart big moments.’ Singers sing to audiences by necessity, and sometimes the audience is entangled within those very songs. Beyond the departed, the fictional and the unknowing, people in songs often come to know that they are for better or for worse.
People written into songs, even those with positive relationships as Havenith clarifies, is the case with true love gone – hearing music is an absurdly daunting concept, but any old person stumbling across it can be tricky. ‘Even my friends, my mum,’ he laughs. ‘People I wanna impress, people I wanna be friends with, my workmates. I don’t wanna think about it like that, but I do have to confront this sort of thing. Nothing I’ve written is angry about anyone in particular, apart from sometimes myself.’
Havenith’s near-complete degree in sociology might seem totally unrelated to singing songs, but he notes that ‘the self and the world is how I would characterise my literary inclination.’ Forgive potential over-analysis, but each and every song on big reads as an investigation into how one anxious mind interacts with an increasingly busy world. It’s a 21st century tale that ropes in unwilling participation from all. ‘It’s the same for everyone. Like, obviously, I was in lockdown, we all were,’ Havenith laments. ‘It’s obviously gonna be heavily impacted by that, but every album or project was – so saying “this album was affected by lockdown” is a sort of no-shit type thing.’ As Havenith points out, anxiety is wrought throughout the world – whether or not people are happily self-contained, they’ve had to learn to live this way somewhat.
Hopping past the growingly menial doom and gloom that can be detailed page upon page to the avail of no new information, big is Havenith’s first project attached to a label. Bedroom-based Heavenly Creature Records is an outwardly loving DIY endeavour that along with big has put out two charity compilation mixes as of yet. ‘It’s good that it’s community-based,’ Havenith excitedly reports. ‘It can get people involved a bit more than in just a sense of artistic alliances. It’s been a very nice experience.’
Havenith is earnest with a personality that darts into laughter at a moment’s notice. It’s often jolting but always pleasantly surprising, much like when the sadness of his music is infused with splashes of distortion and noise. big is another step in the budding career of a growing song-writer, as well as a great moment for a flourishing record label.
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