Despite being active for nearly a decade, Ben Holton’s My Autumn Empire project has never delivered a full album until now. Yet ‘The Village Compass’ will be familiar fare to those who’ve followed the pastoral and nostalgic music of Holton’s regular band, Epic45.
Guitar lines ring and resonate and although he doesn’t sing much Holton relies on his trusty whisper of despair. ‘The Approach Of The City’ may sound like an optimistic little ditty but its theme of rural life being overtaken by housing development (Holton sings “They’re building around you and you won’t even notice”) is quietly chilling. Likewise, ‘We Were Happy’ and ‘The Playing Fields’ seem to be hanging on doggedly to memories of better days. Holton reaches his peak on ‘Woodland Theme/Wood Alcohol’; layering his own vocal harmonies on top of each other against the most melancholic of melodies but the deliciously languid title track – a battle between traffic noise and rustic arrangements – runs it close.
‘The Village Compass’ is a beautifully realised piece of work. If you were unfamiliar with his previous material, you would have thought Holton would be a middle-aged romantic but the fact that he is still in his twenties and able to articulate nostalgia so poignantly through his music has to be this album’s main achievement.
Epic45, July Skies, Hood