[sic] Magazine

My Autumn Empire – Last Year’s Leaves – Tape Reflections Vol: 1

My Autumn Empire is the solo venture of Ben Holton, better known as one half of epic45. This alone is sufficient to pique my interest already, such is my love for the Staffordshire duo and it is attention far from misplaced. Let’s see if I’ve got this right, I think Ben is the one with the folk-pop mentalities while epic45 partner Rob Glover creates the ultra cool, slightly glitchy beats? Apologies if I’m incorrect there. I’m certainly guilty of over simplicity. It’s just tough to tell with multi-instrumentalists sometimes.

Editor’s note – for a window into the world of epic45 seek out the mini album In All The Empty Houses. It comes highly recommended.

With the above in mind we might have anticipated a distillation of the epic45 sound on Last Year’s Leaves…. Yes and no. This album feels more like a companion piece than a side project. Neither identical nor radical departure. Indeed this short, punctual mini-album cannot easily be summarized as one specific thing either, such is the variety on display. Holton takes us on a journey through little acoustic busks, ambient passages, whimsical folk-pop and tear-stained indietronica usually accompanied by trademark tape hiss. There’s a sense of spaciousness throughout, but the mood Holton creates is one of pure nostalgia. While listening I find myself yearning for a romanticized childhood that I probably never really experienced. I’m guessing he and I were exposed to similar upbringings – hazy summers, walks in the village, Public Service Broadcasts…. Trumpton. That’s his oeuvre. My Autumn Empire is evocative of cozy, dreamy and melancholic past times.

‘The Light Brocade’ opens proceedings, a composition of varying phases making it somewhat challenging for the listener to get a ‘fix’ on the album. Following track ‘The Dark Arches’ is more of a classically ambient piece. You begin to think you’re in Budd and Eno territory, a thought which ‘The Dark Spectacle’ does little to dispel. There are ominous scales here working against the twinkle of the piano and guitar strings. Familiar, fragile vocals emerge on ‘The Beautiful Golden Y’. It is here that the album hits a real purple patch. ‘The Angle Shades’ could be Lemon Jelly channelling Michael Nyman and is curiously cinematic as a result. Worth the purchase price alone is the utterly wonderful ‘The Treble Lines’. Sad, charming and utterly wonderful, I’d rate ‘The Treble Lines’ up there with the very best works of epic45.

It isn’t over quite yet. ‘The Uncertain Moth’ is trademark Holton melancholy while ‘The Strange Wave’ is an impossibly strong closing track. Boards Of Canada collide with Saint Etienne. Except this is not anybody else’s sound. This is Holton’s sound.

I adore him.


Alternative Britpop