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Henry Green – Half Light

Henry Green is an electronic artist with admirable self-belief. Hailing from the English city of Bristol, he chose to retreat to a quiet country village in 2019 and it was here – in a loft studio – that he recorded and produced his new album wholly alone in the space of just six months. He had previously received notes of praise for his 2018 album Shift and before that for the EPs Slow (2015) and Real (2017). Half Light builds on the soundscapes and vision of that triumvirate.

The album was released by Akira Records (his roster mate Ghostly Kisses features on “Idle”). It contains cracks of emotional despair, unsurprising given the isolation Green imposed on himself. Half Light is the signalling of Green’s solemn and weary acceptance of the conclusion of his past six months: in its serene and contemplative sound, one can conjure the image of Green tentatively opening up the curtains to the world and unlocking the darkness of his artistic loft space. Half Light: dim light, such as at dawn – not quite full, partially obscured. The album is the result of Green’s personal battle with his art and its title intends to warn us of the result.

Green is young – 24 years old – but boasts a technical elegance that flushes through all nine tracks on Half Light. The beats are hypnotic in an intimate manner, never waylaying the atmosphere that Green clearly has carefully crafted. The album is filtered through a mellowness that never wavers. This is minimalistic electronic pop with no reaching for the spectacular or superlative and this reflects the self-exploratory journey which Green undertook to get here.

His subdued electronics are intricate enough to maintain most listeners’ attention, but the constant pensiveness often borders on rendering the songs inconsequential. The one-two of “Fabric” and “Sunlight” that follow a strong start barely register a punch and the album lands close to Green shutting those curtains again. It’s always smooth, consistently polished, but lacks a connecting depth at times. As another plaintive whisper rises above another glossy track, one wants to implore Green to give more of himself to the moment.

Andreya Triana provides vocals on “Tide”, a warmer slice of downtempo soul, but when it’s just Green on his own his vocal is unhurried and as soft as silk: as his whisper whirls through each track, there’s a juxtaposing intensity within the sensitivity; Green sounds pained, anxious, and ruminative, but it’s done at his own pace. His vocal style and treatment is strikingly similar to that of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson – so strikingly similar that at times, such as on album opener “All”, it sounds as though Green could be paying homage with a cover.

Green closely recalls fellow British electronic musician Bonobo (who Triana incidentally has also worked with in the past) but some of the songs also bear a passing resemblance to the work of American master Sufjan Stevens, such as on “Realign”, with its gentle percussion and melancholic singing.

The cinematic instrumentation interlude of “Yoyuu” provokes the strongest reaction. Taking its name from the Japanese idiom which can be taken to mean a margin, or breathing space, this description proves apt – the song recalls those wondrous orchestral compositions that only nature and solitude can inspire.

The tracks that make up Half Light are sketches, each one fragmented, and by the end, once Green has unburdened himself of his frustration, a clearer picture of the artist as a person emerges. It’s actually the chorus of “All” that truly distills the essence of Half Light: Green sighs the line “Call all the words out of me”, repeating the refrain like a mantra, and this is what he tried to achieve with the album; while the glacial emotional introspection always leaves the listener somewhat in the shadows, Green deserves praise for his utmost attempt to divulge everything he was feeling.