Noah Lawson is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Northumberland, UK. Composition has always driven Lawson’s musical interest with his earliest songs written at the age of nine. He enjoys improvisational music, in particular contemporary jazz, and formed the jazz duo SubWoofer with percussionist Dom Kilsby in his teenage years. Trained as a classical pianist and drummer, as well as being a self-taught guitarist and banjoist, Lawson went on to the University of Oxford to study music, and obtain his BA, where he explored his emerging minimalist and electroacoustic contemporary classical compositional style. He was appointed the Composition Scholar at St Anne’s College in 2018, studying with Professor Martyn Harry and Dr, Eugene Birman. At Oxford, Lawson discovered his interest in music production while recording his first EP. This prompted him to move to the University of York to get his master’s in music production. Lawson’s solo projects aim to draw upon this range of influences to make music that is accessible and stimulating, emotive and thought-provoking.
To Restore What Has Been Lost draws on Lawson's wide range of influences, from Sufjan Stevens and Plini, to Brahms and Tigran Hamasyan. The result finds acoustic, banjo-based songs moving into dense synth solos, rubbing shoulders with choral polyphony and contemplative piano ballads. It’s Lawson's first full-length album and it reflects on the last two years of his life – from his conversion to Christianity, the breakdown and restoration of relationships, to the issue of loneliness and the value of friendship. A large majority of the album was recorded and mixed in Lawson's bedroom and garage, aside from the drums on the opening track which were recorded in the professional standard studio at the University of York. It was recorded using Reaper– the only mainstream DAW that accommodates Lawson's visual access software – and was mixed in the box with mostly the package reaper plugins.
The opening track “Even in the Cold” has a lofty and light sound – steady piano rhythms are accompanied by light, “soundscape” styled keys and hypnotizing vocals. The drumming comes in after a few more measures, reminiscent of a little Coldplay and Radiohead. Overall, a very inspirational sounding opener that “sounds” like the cold. “The Walk Before I Run” takes us out of the tundra and into the bayou with crickets and other swampy creature sounds, among the rolling, soft sounds of the banjo. Speaking of ‘soft sounds’ the singing is magnificent, very soothing and inviting. This one really had a special, tender quality about it. Switching gears yet again, is “The Run” – with its beginning ‘sci-fi movie’ sound. The offbeat rhythm of the drums, arcade game-like keys, over the low droning second keyboard sound, made me feel like I was inside Tron again.
Playing off of that sci-fi, futuristic style is “Hold You” – a journey into all things ambient and spacey. The intro begins with Lawson’s voice being put through some kind of electronic voice enhancer, which makes your voice literally sound not like a human’s, and then the rest of the song is purely instrumental. Next up, is “Always” which begins with typing sounds a la a laptop, I assume, followed by an acoustic guitar, synths, bells and a warm, rolling rhythm section. One of Lawson’s longer pieces, “Always” moves nicely along with dynamic vigor, filled with both high and low climatic moments. “She Loves You” features bell sounding keys, that are coupled with orchestral, violin-string keys, and some kind of repeating “mantra” if you will. A steady beat follows on the rim of the snare drum with an interesting mix of pop, contemporary classical and indie styles. Further in, more keys are layered, along with a heavier drum beat. I would recommend listening to this one.
“Pointless Changing” has a piano and vocal beginning. This one “felt” like watching the snow falling down during winter – must have been the way Lawson played his piano. The drums added just enough “break” to give this number greater dimension and texture. “Hunting Crayfish” threw me for a loop – at least the beginning did. The mix of key/synth sounds were a feast for the ears – so many ranges of styles, it was hard to keep track of what I was hearing, but I was diggin’ it. The drums were sharp and forceful, just a great contrast of sounds overall between instruments and voice – another song I would highly recommend. “Another Day with You” has a tender and melancholy feel to it – something that sounds like it was written around Christmastime or the dead of winter. If you like the sounds of a piano with voice, and a little extra synth effects on the side, this song is for you. “Reprise” might be up your alley as well – carrying on the piano/synth pairing, along with futuristic “robot-like” and “choir-like” voices, church organs and other ambient style details – this one was very dynamic. I mean – wow!
And last, there is “Nervous” – another venture into the sounds of the banjo. This is Lawson’s longest song on the album by far, and it includes horn and organ-like keys, crisp drumbeats, whispering “in the round” vocals, dramatic crescendos and a killer keyboard solo, that totally made me think of “Lucky Man” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
What can I say about Lawson’s first full length album? Well, it’s about as well produced as any album I’ve ever heard, not to mention it’s rich with complexity. I would recommend it for sure. You may hear a few more layers of something in between another listen or three – recordings like this offer a wide array of styles and influences. You may not hear them right away, but give it time – there’s some really good stuff going on in this debut.
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