Three years after “Keep the Devil out of Hillsboro”, Hemlock Smith re-invent themselves, again. And change. Michael Frei (Bandleader and sole permanent member) gives himself a break and works without most of his usual fellas. Kind of a solo album? That probably was the idea, sort of. No big plans but the desire to go for it alone, even if it were to fail eventually… To break new ground, without a net.
In the end though, Everything Has Changed turns out to be an album made as a collaborative effort, arranged and perfected by many musicians, and primarily by Fabrizio Di Donato, the ever faithful pianist and arranger. Even if, like Mark Hollis from Talk Talk, Hemlock Smith wanted to gain creative freedom, the songs don’t come flying like lo-fi one-shots, but are made to shine by many a musical friendship.
It was to be made at home, not sonically perfect but full of human warmth. It was to be stripped down, all the unnecessary to be discarded. Yes, and it was to be a quick one, to capture the excitement of the unknown; only four days were allowed to discover the songs, to develop them, to modify and finish everything that came about. There’s a rhythm section (the Houseguests) as well as many unknown Swiss greats such as 17f, les Poissons Autistes and Barbouze de chez Fior, who have previously worked with the Young Gods. You can hear many an influence in these tracks; Tom Waits, the late Vic Chesnutt John Lennon and Sparklehorse, and maybe even Jacques Brel…
The conductor of these proceedings is always the singer who sometimes dwells in raw theatricality (Death ain’t got no Mercy), sometimes comes across as a storyteller (Cpt. Death) and even dares to offer some French, full of weird and playful poetry (Je n’ai Paris). The voice always adapts itself to the songs and moods contained on this wonderful record; wood coloured Folk, foggy Soul, light footed Blues and elegant Pop. Like the sum of all the influences that do exist in Michael Frei’s universe. And if therefore everything is transformed, the changes lie in the tiny details. The ones that make all the difference.
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