Release Date: Oct 7, 2014
Record label: Dicristina Stair
Genre(s): Folk, Singer/Songwriter, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, British Folk
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Nine years isn't so long to wait really, not when you consider the 35 year gap between Vashti Bunyan's 1970 debut Just Another Diamond Day and its eventual follow-up, 2005's Lookaftering. The reasons for that remarkable delay are well documented. If you don't already know, the brief version is that Vashti was so disillusioned with the music business that she moved to Scotland and concentrated on raising a family, deliberately cutting herself off from her previous career until she was encouraged back to make another record by the enthusiasm and fandom of the likes of Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective, and Glen Johnson of Piano Magic.
The remarkable story of Vashti Bunyan’s recording career has been told many, many times before. It recounts how a young English singer-songwriter released her first album in 1970 and that there then followed a 35 year wait for its successor. Despite contributions from members of The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention – two of the most significant and more influential folk bands of the day - string and recorder arrangements provided by Robert Kirby and a production credit for Joe Boyd (men who were both closely associated with the music of Nick Drake), the debut Just Another Diamond Day proved to be a commercial disaster.
It's been nine years since Vashti Bunyan released her sophomore album, Lookaftering. When contrasted with the three and a half decades between it and her classic 1970 debut, Just Another Diamond Day, it seems like a blip. Bunyan has said in an interview that Heartleap will be her final album. That it sums up everything she has to say.
Sometimes, the best way to bring closure is to go back to how it all began. It’s been a challenging nine years for Scottish singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan to assemble the ten seraphic tracks that make up her latest release, Heartleap. Bunyan herself describes it as the last record of her career, one that has always remained modestly firm yet profoundly simple in the extent of forty four years.
The Kate Bush fans who waited 35 years for their favourite artist to return to live performance might do well to consider the curious case of Vashti Bunyan, who effectively retired from music following her debut album (Just Another Diamond Day) in 1970. Yet the interconnectedness of the modern world can work magic, and this bucolic and pretty work assumed a new life, influencing a whole host of contemporary folk artists. Thirty-five years later, in 2005, came a follow-up of sorts, the delightful, idiosyncratic, wistful and charming Lookaftering.
After a 35-year gap between her beloved debut album and its follow-up, Lookaftering, Vashti Bunyan’s third – and supposedly final – long-player, Heartleaps, might have surprised fans with its comparatively speedy gestation time of nine years. If this is to be Bunyan’s final word, it’s a fitting one. This is the distilled, finely crafted essence of Bunyan: a hushed, reflective meditation of an album that seems to have the welcome effect of cancelling out the world around the listener.
Vashti Bunyan says that her third full-length album, Heartleap, will also be her last. Given her rate of production to this point, we have no reason to doubt her. Bunyan’s first record, Just Another Diamond Day, came out in 1970 and quickly disappeared; later, it was rediscovered, developing a devoted cult among admirers of obscure folk. Following that renewed interest, she dusted off the old Martin and recorded her second album, Lookaftering, in 2005.
“Every day is every day / One foot in front of the other / Learn to fall with the grace of it all / As stones skip across the water.” These words comprise the chorus of “Across the Water”, the chiming opening song from British songstress Vashti Bunyan’s latest album, Heartleap. Adept at creating myth, Bunyan is more famous for her inconspicuous nature since the release of her debut album, Just Another Diamond Day, in 1970. If one were to count the days since this inaugural missive, they’d be surprised to learn that Bunyan’s canon totals only three albums and a collection of ephemera (2007’s Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind) released in a span of 44 years.
Vashti Bunyan has had a curious career. In 1970 she released Just Another Diamond Day, a gently charming, if sometimes twee album that failed to sell. When it was re-released 30 years later, helped by reminders of how she had travelled across Britain in a horse-drawn wagon, it was hailed as a classic. She followed up with a second album in 2005, and now comes a third set that will no doubt delight her psych-folk cult following, but may leave others baffled.
Vashti Bunyan's voice, equal parts fragile and beautiful, might well function as a metaphor for her two-part career. First, the fragile: after being discovered at a young age by The Rolling Stones' manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, Bunyan embarked on a failed attempt at pop stardom. She later broke her contract with Oldham, travelled the length of Britain in a horse-drawn cart in a quixotic attempt to find an artist's colony set up by Donovan, and wrote an album's worth of material on the way.