Uncut - *******
"...a dizzying swirl of grandiose chamber pop, tragi-comic folk and doom balladry."
"The confessional singer-songwriter elements reference Mark Lanegan, Joni Mitchell and Jeff Buckley, albeit with a cinematic overview..."
"The rich harmonies create a beautiful ambience..."
Mark Lanegan -
"Huw Costin makes classic records with an attention to detail not often heard anymore - achingly beautiful, direct and gentle poetry"
The Quietus -
"the title track is a slowly-building piece of electronic-tinged pop, centred around the choral wash of vocals and pinned down by a skipping, Animal Collective-esque bass line …"
The Line of Best Fit -
"‘Something/Nothing'… serene in a quite spectacular way."
"‘Disconnected’ is more traditional in structure and possessing a folkier slant, the track finds its USP at around the one minute mark when there’s a glorious build-up/breakdown reminiscent of latter-day Radiohead…"
Rock Feedback -
"The title track is a beautiful gauzy thing that builds without ever crescendoing…"
It doesn’t take HUW COSTIN and his second solo album, SOMETHING/NOTHING, long to get to the heart of the matter. Less than 45 seconds, in fact. Amidst grand orchestral sweeps and cannon shots of brass, the Nottingham based singer, songwriter and producer – who’s also worked with Brian Eno, Echoboy and Mark Lanegan, as well as being part of Earth The Californian Love Dream and The Cold Light Of Day – delivers the killer line: “Yes, I believe / that we are doomed”. It’s not the most optimistic opening to an album, but anyone who’s heard Costin’s debut album, Regrets, will know that lyrical transparency and candid sincerity are trademark qualities in his work. But, just as he was on that splendid debut, Costin remains a master at tempering the sometimes-gloomy realism that lies at the heart of his songs with an optimism that is rare. Doomed we may be, yet this time Costin’s got a simple suggestion: “take as much love / as you can get”.
COSTIN’s no long-haired hippy, though, and he’s not motivated by a desire to spread peace, love and understanding so much as the need to process what he’s experienced. SOMETHING/NOTHING picks up where Regrets left off, exhibiting both musically and lyrically a true understanding of the ebb and flow of romance, recalling the rush and passion of both love and loneliness, and carrying out sometimes painful but always heartfelt post-mortems on now disintegrated relationships. Though that could, in less capable hands, result in a bout of tedious navel-gazing, COSTIN’s blessed with an ability to speak in universal terms: it’s not his experiences that are unique so much as his ability to articulate them.
Musically it’s also more ambitious, reaching for a sound that was once known as ‘The Big Music’: expansive, eloquent, and – perhaps most importantly of all – honest. From the opening, grandiose strains of ‘Doomed’ to the fragile closing chamber strings of ‘Butterfly Girls’, SOMETHING/NOTHING rarely relies on studio trickery despite its sometime epic nature, and never seeks to hide behind unnecessarily elaborate arrangements. It’s always far more than a standard singer/songwriter album too, having far more in common with some of the artists that on whom COSTIN dotes most: Robert Wyatt and Roy Harper, Brian Eno and The Beach Boys, Julian Cope and Joni Mitchell. You can hear them all: in the details his lyrics offer, in the minutiae of his arrangements and harmonies, in the lack of self-consciousness he demonstrates.
But while Regrets, as its title suggested, lent on themes like the associated self-recrimination and sadness that accompany break-ups, SOMETHING/NOTHING offers a more positive outlook on what he describes as the search for “real love: the perpetual patching up of one another”. It’s on show in ‘December’, whose rich tenor reveals that “I don’t want to live forever / I just want to have my time”, or perhaps in ‘Evergreen’ where, despite “no photographs of you…” he acknowledges that “I'll remember you in my heart”. Costin would deny the fact that SOMETHING/NOTHING is an album full of redemption, however, and to a degree he’s right. After all, it is, as he says, “a catalogue of found, failing and then failed relationships”. His circumstances haven’t changed dramatically since Regrets either: “I still hate my job, live in fear that ‘this is it’, feel old sometimes, feel thick other times and recognise that death is getting closer.” But the HUW COSTIN of SOMETHING/NOTHING has come to terms with at least a few of these things. As he puts it, “I know that I’m not alone. Moody I may be, but I try not to be bitter.” And no one could accuse SOMETHING/NOTHING of being bitter. Dark, sometimes, but never bitter.
Instead there’s longing in the delicate ‘Move To The City’, its slow motion melody at odds with his new urban surroundings, and there’s comfort in the return to familiar faces and scenes that ‘December’ represents, its acoustic setting triumphantly swollen at the song’s end by brass that reflects the solace he’s found. The title track is similarly soothing, largely due to its expression of relief as much as resignation, and while ‘Disconnected’ concerns itself with “the realization that I’d let my ideals down” it still marvels at the “small wonders” the world offers, its words carrying a sweet, wide-eyed tune that threatens to blow wide open with trombone and e-bow.
The album concludes with the short but charming ‘Butterfly Girls’, a plaintive acoustic number that closes with the lines “And your heart / don’t really / wanna hurt no more”. Those who spend time with SOMETHING/NOTHING can’t be guaranteed a life free of pain, but they’ll definitely find it to be a source of consolation rich in elegance, honesty and acceptance. Such qualities are rarer than ever these days, but HUW COSTIN recognises their importance and remains unafraid to display them.
Huw Costin has worked with both Brian Eno, Mark Lanegan, and leftfield disco artists Smith & Mudd. Currently writing and
performing with his band Torn Sail and as a solo performer. His debut solo album - Regrets - found it’s way into the NME Yearbook as a top 10 album. Something/Nothing was released in 2013 receiving support from Dermot O Leary and critical acclaim from Mojo & Uncut Magazines....more