London indie-folk artist Inti Rowland releases his debut LP ‘17th Century Japanese Aviary’, a record of delicate and precise songwriting
inding yourself compared to acts such as Laura Marling, The Antlers, William Tyler and Grizzly Bear might set an insurmountable climb for some artists. Not so though for indie-folk artist Inti Rowland, who here demonstrates that he’s quite capable of sitting alongside such noted songwriters as a peer.
If comparisons to those noted writers weren’t attention-perking enough then the album’s title – 17th Century Japanese Aviary – will do it for you. Of course the record isn’t actually a collage of found sounds from a 400-year-old bird sanctuary. What it does share with its title, though, is a sense of grace. This is made apparent at the album’s outset, with both Mongolian Hunters and The Ballad Of The Ballroom Ghost possessed of this quality. It’s the same elegance that punctuates the writing of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, though devoid of the sense of crushing catharsis. This is a good thing, because instead of leading you into the depths of despair, 17th Century Japanese Aviary hangs like a photograph in the wind – a collection of moments to observe and admire.
This esoteric ornamental quality is aided in no small part by the record’s gorgeous string section, such as in tracks like Summer Swallows and The Pendulum Sings For The Joy Of It. There are plenty of quieter moments too, as with the title track, The Books From My Shelf and Beaten, Battered, But Bold. These simply emphasise Rowland’s poise, as well as giving 17th Century Japanese Aviary a more rounded quality.
It’s sometimes unfair to lumber a new artist with such heavy-hitting comparisons, and that’s no less true with Inti Rowland. For Rowland, though, this is not due to any shortfall, but rather a detraction from his songwriting finesse; Inti Rowland is an indie-folk writer who is very much of himself and one who warrants acclaim on his own merit.
Verdict: An intriguing new interest in the indie-folk canon