Choirs, strings, tambourines, brass, woodwind – all present and correct on track one of Matthew E. White’s new album Big Inner, and it just gets more warm and lush as you sink into its soft analogue embrace.
Think Van Dyke Parks, Muscle Shoals, Scott Walker, Joe South, Harry Nilsson, Astral Weeks and you will be getting there. This is the first release from label Spacebomb, which is aiming to become a modern day Motown or Stax, combining a house band, style, studio and label all in one. The house band comprises of a 3 piece rhythm section, 8 horn players and 9 piece string ensemble, and quite a few choir members too, but they never overwhelm the songs, just get on with their roles, creating a beautiful quiet storm and all recorded onto tape.
Although there are only 7 tracks, it lasts for a perfect 41 minutes, with not a wasted moment. There are overt references to many classic songs – not sampling them, but alluding to them: that sounds like “Games People Play” (Joe South) on “Will You Love Me”? And isn’t that some lines from “Many Rivers To Cross” (Jimmy Cliff) in the same song?
Although musically it is an easy listen, lyrically it covers death, love, faith – nothing too important then! Check out “Gone Away”, written after the death of his 4 year old cousin in a car crash. And on final track “Brazos” the chorus / chant “Jesus Christ is your Lord, Jesus Christ is your friend” (which comes from Jorge Ben’s “Brother”) you can sense the doubt and uncertainty in his mind, despite, or more likely because of his upbringing by missionary parents in the Philippines.
Nigel House, Co-founder, Rough Trade record shops.