Fever Dream

Fever Dream

by Ben Watt


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With 2014's Hendra, DJ, producer, label owner, and author Ben Watt resumed his career as a solo singer/songwriter after 31 years as a collaborator with Tracey Thorn (his wife) in Everything But the Girl. Fever Dream proves Hendra wasn't just a one-off to scratch an artistic itch. The complications of life events -- the death of his parents and step-sister, the changing nature of long-term relationships among his friends and family -- needed to be made sense of, and the songs wouldn't leave him alone. With Bernard Butler returning on lead guitar, drummer Martin Ditcham, and upright bassist Rex Horan, Watt delivers ten new songs that delve into the joys, conflicts, ends, and renewals of love of many kinds. Self-produced, these songs are rendered with Watt's requisite grace and attentiveness, not only to sound and words, but also to musical inspirations. Opener "Gradually" engages his love for Neil Young and Crazy Horse with Butler's distorted, stuttering electric guitars, sweet vocal harmonies, and lyrics that reference the loss of self that occurs with the first rush of love, and the doubt that emerges as time passes: "No words are on your lips/we pass like silent ships/Can I prove we exist/Where are the hours we missed/This summer night is clear/I still want you near/I don't know where I am/or who I used to be." The title track reflects the weight of everyday life on passion. It contains a jazzier feel, with hand percussion and slippery guitar chords that recall John Martyn in his post-Grace & Danger period; Hiss Golden Messenger's M.C. Taylor makes a guest vocal appearance. The grain in each of their voices etches its own stark portrait of romantic uncertainty. The tone of the recording shifts halfway through; the themes become more accommodating if not celebratory. The music is more delicate, but no less poignant. Watt's love of the iconic hybrid of Pentangle's British folk-jazz emerges in the gorgeous "Faces of My Friends." In "Running with the Front Runners," a dreamy bossa rhythm slips effortlessly amid acoustic and electric guitars and sparse, atmospheric keyboards. Set-closer "New Year of Grace," with backing vocals from Marissa Nadler, counterbalances the doubt and darkness in "Gradually." Fingerpicked, minor-key acoustic guitar, and a well-placed, intermittent cello, flute, and upright bass underscore Watt singing about the unexpected and sometimes shattering moments of beauty that emerge in relationships -- when one is willing to absorb their difficulties rather than run from them. Watt interrogates love and its stages thoroughly on Fever Dream, yet in the end he unequivocally affirms it. His songs are resonant with the weight of experience, and his musical settings, even in their relative sparsity, are powerful and at times nearly elegant.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/08/2016
Label: Unmade Road Ltd
UPC: 0885606001220
catalogNumber: 600122

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ben Watt   Primary Artist,Synthesizer,Guitar,Piano,Electric Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Electric Piano,Vocals,Guitar (Resonator),Guitar (12 String Acoustic)
Bernard Butler   Guitar,Electric Guitar
Martin Ditcham   Percussion,Conga,Drums
Jim Watson   Organ,Synthesizer
M.C. Taylor   Background Vocals
Marissa Nadler   Background Vocals
Rex Horan   Electric Bass,Double Bass

Technical Credits

Bernard Butler   overdub engineer
Ben Watt   Composer,Producer,overdub engineer
Bruno Ellingham   Engineer,overdub engineer
Andrew VanWyngarden   Composer
Benjamin Goldwasser   Composer
John Gilsenan   Artwork

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