• Leafcutter John - The Housebound Spirit

    Leafcutter John - The Housebound Spirit

    ‘If it takes three years to get it right, then so be it!’ ‘Leafcutter’ John Burton’s second album has been, in his own word, long coming and the result of a painful creative process. Following on from the classic Microcontact, The Housebound Spirit is a more intriguing and challenging piece of work than its predecessor, yet, it also appears more consistent and accessible.
    Steering slightly away from the ambiences of his previous album, Burton presents here an impressive collection of broken songs. The fruit of three years of work, The Housebound Spirit owes its title to a severe case of agoraphobia Burton developed after being attacked near his home. Suffering from regular panic attacks whilst outside, he found himself a prisoner in his own home, with music as only mean to escape. Reflected on the cover of this album, this semi-confinment explains in part the dark atmospheres encountered along the fifteen tracks of this second album. Build around sounds recorded in the various homes he lived in during these three years, The Housebound Spirit appears more claustrophobic and self-contained than Microcontact indeed. Yet, Burton’s approach to sound structure has developed considerably. Increasingly confronting take on electro-acoustic with his folk roots, leaving behind all conventional forms of electronica, he refines and sharpens his compositions to present a more radical piece of work. As he toys with references ranging from Palace Brothers to Pierre Henry, he clearly avoids any obvious point of contact with any of his contemporaries. The contradiction between extremely abstract pieces and more straightforward compositions could appear rather unsettling, but it actually works towards balancing this record quite well. Introducing some elements of acoustic guitar on If You Have An Enemy and Walk On My Back, Burton’s most straightforward moment here is to be found on the beautiful House Or A Soul. A delicate and slightly introvert pop song on which his ominous vocal tone hovers, it provides the listener with some breathing space in between more challenging compositions.
    The Housebound Spirit is not as much a solitary piece of work as it may seems. If most of the tracks were performed and produced by Burton, this album benefits of contributions from a variety of artists, with label mates Nautilis, Hellfish and Venetian Snares man Aaron Funk joining forces with Mercedes, Si-Cut.db or Bit Middler to supply Burton with screams on Electric Love, while cello, recorder and clarinet sound sources were provided by passing friends. If greatly processed and integrated into the soundscape, Kazumi’s vocals on Khom?s give this piece an interesting element of sensuality, especially when left untouched. Elsewhere, Burton devises ever more organic and textural compositions, where sounds bounce off each other, creating ever-changing structures. The aesthetic element has always been an integrant part of his work, and The Housebound Spirit is no exception. Despite the impression of chaos, it is clear that Burton actually takes great care at positioning his sounds very precisely into his compositions, relentlessly working on structures and ambiences. Whether he lacerates spitting noises or works on background textures, Burton retains the attention of his audience all the way through by constantly keeping the intended emotional scope in focus.
    If, like Microcontact, The Housebound Spirit is a difficult album to apprehend, it also proves extremely rewarding. With an instinct for original soundscapes and altered structures, John Burton dissects and reshapes his sound sources to form superb organic constructions. Far from being cold and mechanical, The Housebound Spirit is fact extremely human.

    4.8/5

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