30 March 2018

If This Is A Man - Centuries

If This Is A Man is the alternative mocker of one Jon White from Stoke-on-Trent, Centuries is his third album for this project and follows on from Splinters which was released in 2016.  The style of If This Is A Man is described as "Acoustic, Ambient, Slowcore, Folk, Melancholy".  So, we know what to expect from the music, if that description is anything to go by.  After this though, I've no further information, as there are no more details on the ITIAM Facebook or Bandcamp pages.  The only thing I can tell you is that ITIAM are persistent, but not in a bad way. So, a little later than ITIAM might have been desiring, here is my review of Centuries.

01 - Centuries

The title track opens Centuries with a slow and methodical strumming.   "Centuries" is all about setting out the stall for this album early on.  With looping noises in the background, the strumming is build up over the song. ITIAM sounds as if the heartache which inspired "Centuries" occurred just as he was about to press the record button.  "Centuries" is a good opener, but I've no illusion that this is for moments when your heart is wounded.

02 - Obsession

"Obsession" is a song about not having the ability to escape your own demons. No matter how hard you run, they're always there when you arrive at your destination.  "Obsession" is another song that has been created from fresh heartache, delivering another beautifully fractured moment.  The music is brilliant, the vocals are on point and it makes the hairs on my neck stand on end.

03 - Long Time Dead

"Long Time Dead" is a hard song, one of the darkest of Centuries.  The sound of isolation, those failed relationships and the end of all things is a heartbreaker.  The build centres around a simple acoustic riff, a gentle pattern that delivers beautiful sound.  But it's the words that make "Long Time Dead" so hard to listen, this song is really good, but so hard on the soul.

04 - All That I Know

"All That I Know" is a song about being lost, whilst other people are leaving for destinations and you're still stuck in the remains of a previous life.  This reminds me a bit of an acoustic version of "Wonderful Life" by 80's pop act Black, but with the joyful optimism drained out and the heartache added instead.  It might seem like I'm being down on this, but I'm not.  It's another song which I enjoy, but it's another heartbreaker.

05 - Unclear

"Unclear" is the darkest point of Centuries, the black soul at the centre of this record.  I'm not sure if this is a warning about drug addiction or a lesson on how to avoid an affair, either way, it takes no prisoners.  The minimalist music allows those words to impact you, to hit you like punches when you let them.  This song should really have a health warning...

06 - Meanwhile

"Meanwhile" is a sub-two minute instrumental track, acting as a pool of relief in this ocean of pain.  It achieves this very well, but I would have loved to have heard a longer version of this.

07 - Reveal

"Reveal" seems to be a song that is brimming with anger, as if the self-loathing has erupted and the singer cannot take any more.  This might be an acoustic number, but this is one of the most aggressive numbers I've heard this year.  This is another great song on this album, one which shows another side to ITIAM.

08 - All As One

"All As One" is a song that ponders the end of days, when the spirits rise and no lies can be hidden.  It's a short number, one that focuses mostly on looping sounds, creating a haunted number that sadly ends too soon.

09 - Gloria

Ending the album is "Gloria", which has a recital of "The Last Letter" by Ted Hughes.  If you've ever read the words of Ted Hughes, you will know that this is heartache incarnate.  You'll also see what an influence that his work has been on ITIAM, how much his work is embedded into the core of this act.  It's an interesting ending to this album, but it's not an easy listen.

For a slow-burning acoustic affair, Centuries is an album of focused vision, executed to the desires of its creator and hopefully, he'll be pleased with the results.  It's a vision of loneliness, heartache and self-loathing in place, making it an uncomfortable album in places.  If you're in the mood for an acoustic record, one which sounds like the soul has been wounded, then Centuries will be a great choice.  This is a record that I would only pick up if I was in that particular mood.  When you look into the music of Centuries, there is a similarity to the songs. Each song has a common thread, each one is similar to the others.  But they're not identical clones of each other, you can tell the parentage in the same way that you can tell who someone's child is. I'm not saying that this is a poor album, but it's an album that requires downtime to flourish.  For this reason, I love that this sort of record exists.  Because not ever record needs to be attention-grabber, sometimes you need a gentle sound at the end of the day.  There is a beauty to Centuries, a fragile sound which makes this album a perfect companion for the broken-hearted.  Approach with care if your wounded, it might break you.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart

Top track - Obsession

You can purchase Centuries on the If This Is A Man Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the activities of If This Is A Man on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, Centuries is not available on streaming sites.

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