Way back in the day, I was privileged to see the first live show from The Blue Nile, the Glasgow based band responsible for the most astonishingly heartfelt and cinematic music produced over the course of a 22-year career. Their live dates were as rare as their releases, and as keenly and breathlessly anticipated as the return of certain deities.
With the concert in full flow, an ecstatic fan brought lead singer, Paul Buchanan, and most of the band to tears of laughter after shouting out, “Diamonds are forever!” between songs.
How right she was. The precious, invaluable songs from The Blue Nile’s hardly prolific repertoire still shine and resonate as some of the finest pieces of music ever committed to tape.
It is with equal anticipation and thankfulness that the news arrives of a new solo release from Buchanan, Mid Air, eight years after the release of the last Blue Nile opus, High.
Recorded in his Glasgow apartment over the course of the last few years, the record consists of 14 snapshots that barely last beyind three minutes each, but which say more and express more than most acts manage in entire careers, continuing the tradition that The Blue Nile started in 1982 of making utterly glorious, heartfelt and unique music.
Over a pared-back soundtrack that features simple piano figures and synthesised washes of strings and horns, Buchanan presents on Mid Air what feel like the auditory equivalent of Polaroids from a life, perfectly created short stories that catch a moment in time, which reveal just enough to show an insight into the authenticity, romance and poignancy of simply being.
Opening with the words, “The buttons on your collar, the colour of your hair, I think I see you everywhere,” Mid Air is poetic and vivid, setting a trend that continues throughout its 36 minutes, which pass by far too quickly, by which time you’ll have tried on several occasions to explain to anyone in your zone that you have something in your eye… no, really… mfff…
Some of the tracks melt into each other, but their distinctive flavours stand out gloriously.
The lyrics are classic Buchanan, clipped and concise phrases that conjure huge, widescreen panoramas and precise, diamond-drill pinnings of emotional experience.Paul Buchanan does this in music in the same way as Edward Hopper does in paint.
It’s true to say that no-one in music does this so well, so utterly believably, so beautifully. It’s also true to say that with records this good, you wish that Buchanan would record more, and shorten the gaps between releases, but that’s the appeal of his recorded output with The Blue Nile and now, on this solo record. The gaps allow you to return time and again to the music, to learn their every nuance, to make them part of your life and imbue them with your own meaning and significance.
Mid Air is another of those records to return to time and again. Forever.