Having been aware of the wondrous Secretly Canadian roster for years (Songs:Ohia and Damien Jurado in particular), I associated the label with a particularly rustic, rough-hewn sound. Indeed, Secretly Canadian artists have kept my ears busy ever since I heard Damien Jurado in the late 1990s, but given the template, Ben Abraham surprised me a little if I’m honest. Notwithstanding my surprise, however, ‘Sirens’ has been on repeat since January (six months at time of writing) and is likely to keep me busy for some time to come.
In stark contrast to my misguided expectations, the Melbourne-based singer-songwriter’s debut is rich, warm, layered and precise. The polished production values which run through the album like the writing through a stick of rock arguably owe something to Abraham’s stab at a mainstream pop career in his youth (suffice to say, that chapter didn’t work out well), but avoids every ounce of the mainstream insincerity Abraham decided to escape. In fact, having deserted the music industry for eight years and then put back the release of his debut, you have to wonder over the soul-searching that may have gone into making a record as considered as ‘Sirens’ in the first place – the life of the artist is harder than you might think!
From the opening bassy rumble of the title track to the gentle, minimal guitar of the aptly titled “A Quiet Prayer”, ‘Sirens’ is breathtaking and immaculate in equal measures. Abraham’s vocals are full, resonant and effortless and, as he glides around understated (but nonetheless richly textured) arrangements, you can barely help but be captivated by both his songs and his delivery, not because either scream in your face, make earth-shattering statements or cut roads into new and deeply experimental musical territory…but just because they are what they are.
In short, Ben Abraham makes music that forces you to look through a window into a landscape where there’s no need for ephemeral nonsense. It’s just great because that’s what it is.
by Owen Gillham