The artist formerly known as Final Fantasy is back, and his new album is quite something. Famed for his minimalist live performances, involving just him, his violin and his loop pedal, Pallett’s sound on Heartland is more expansive, if no less beautiful, than before. The instrumentation wonderfully blends his usual string arrangements with a new penchant for electronics, and (*gasps*) even drums. But these aren’t your standard beats, and opener ‘Midnight Directives’ sounds more like the work of Bjork producer Valgeir Sigurðsson or Mark Bell than anyone else. ‘The Great Elsewhere’ is a brilliant example of this unity between electronica and orchestration – starting out with minimalist beeps, then developing with frenetic drums and violin accompaniment until its climax, where the string section and the piano take over entirely for the outro – at every stage, a work of phenomenal beauty.
The album is thematically idiosyncratic to say the least. ‘A concatenation of locusts / And the farmers are losing their focus’ might seem a strange couple of lines to sing, but given this is a concept album chronicling the times of Lewis, a farmer on an alternative world Spectrum, it makes perfect sense. Ok, admittedly you have to be prepared for the slightly weird to fully appreciate this album, but if you are, you will be richly rewarded.
The lyrics themselves are beautiful and insightful in equal measure. In the wonderful ‘E Is For Estranged’ Pallett observes ‘Pathos is borne, borne out of bullshit in formal attire’, and in ‘Keep The Dog Quiet’, that ‘This place is a a narrative mess/A floor of tangle of bedsheets and battered sundress’. ‘Oh Heartland, Up Yours!’ is soulfully delivered by Pallett, with the touching and almost tragic refrain ‘I will not sing your praises here’. I’m afraid that is the only element of the album that I will not subscribe to here.