Mumma Don’t Tell: On Leifur James’ A Louder Silence

Chris Daly explores the debut album from the shapeshifting musician.
By    November 27, 2018

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Chris Daly is a studio magician. He does a mean card trick.

If it’s all about the cosign (and let’s be honest, it often is), then London-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Leifur James is keeping the right company.  For his Night Times Stories debut, A Louder Silence, no less than slow fuzz rock stars, Khruangbin, sing his praises with a well-placed “highly recommend checking this one out” Bandcamp eblast.  If the top of the game thinks you’ve got the right sound, you’re going to attract some listeners. Fortunately, Khruangbin seldom are wrong, and their praise here is well warranted.

Following two earlier singles (which feature on the album) and love from Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM, James has put together a wide ranging, complex album of different styles and vibes that can work as a series of stand-alone tracks, but are so much more satisfying as an interconnected whole. From the borderline ambient opening of “Alpine” (which quickly morphs into a keyboard driven composition) to the closing synths on “Osho” that wouldn’t sound out of place on your favorite dystopian anime soundtrack, James makes stops and is equally comfortable in low key funk workouts (“Time”), subdued ballads (“Suns of Gold”), jazzy blues (“Mumma Don’t Tell”), guitar romps (“Uncle Blue”) and African finger picking (“Salaninam”).

If you were to put a gun to my head, which is your right if you’re one of our American readers, the nearest comparable artist I can think of would be Yves Tumor, another master of myriad styles tentatively planted at the crossroads of electronic, R&B, jazz and blues.  As tracks often change styles within themselves, yet alone from one to the next, it’s hard to pinpoint James, which might be his point. This is not music for timid swimmers.

A fully immersed deep dive yields the most satisfying experience.  In other words, I probably wouldn’t give this its first spin at the gym, unless you have unnecessarily spiritual workouts. Or you enjoy getting spacey before you jump on the hamster wheel. I’m not here to judge your motivational sources, just to inform you that this is worth listening to.While each track has its own distinct lane, the album is held together by a central theme of space. “What goes in, comes out,” James explains. “Every detail should be a worthy detail; sometimes nothing is better than something.”  This concept of juxtaposed differences, dark/light, loud/quiet, forms the heart and soul of the album. Living in the mad, mad world we do today that is so filled with distracting noises, A Louder Silence is the perfect antidote.

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