Pascal Babare may only be nineteen years of age, but with this record he manages to blow away a lot of the preconceptions that comes with being a young, solo musician. Whilst contemporaries happily strum along to half-stolen melodies at unsigned nights, the young Australian has managed to forge a genre almost completely all of his own making. Sitting elegantly somewhere between shoegaze, new-millennium folk and traditional singer-songwriters, Thunderclap Spring is an inspired work that often borders on genius.
His influences are clearly diverse and spectacular, with the droning hint of My Bloody Valentine or Slow Dive popping up throughout. It’s probably most comparable to some of Conor ‘Bright Eyes’ Oberst’s earlier, slower works in that they are lyrically vivid, managing to accurately mark the world’s light and dark with such beautiful sound. The beauty is that this album doesn’t delve into self-pitying and moaning that much older, more experienced acts often do. It remains precise throughout, looking outward to the world for inspiration before fostering it within.
The obvious album centerpiece, Joy Division written / New Order released ‘Ceremony’, is done with so deft a touch he doesn’t just re-imagine but re-invent the Factory classic. With understated beauty, this version of the song manages to capture the isolation of an artist reaching breaking point. Whereas Ian Curtis was obviously deeply affected by the industrial Manchester that surrounded him, Babare’s upbringing is equally marked upon this record. Raised in southern Australia, there’s definitely a world music aspect involved, with opening track ‘Elise, We are Vikings’ in particular bathing in laid back percussion and intricate, fragile strums.
It’s a record that absolutely refuses to let you pin it down in any way, breezing effortlessly from the swooning harmony of ‘Sea Salt Water’ to the charming, rag-tag folk of ‘Golden Vulture’. What makes this even more remarkable is that the album was all self-recorded – yet it somehow manages to steer away from the all encompassing lo-fi scene, sounding remarkably crisp. This is far from the work of a complete artist, and the album, brilliant as it is, sometimes lacks bite as are sways from song to song. However, as far as debut releases go, this is one of the most encouraging and rewarding of 2009.