Perfect Light by 40 Watt SunRelease date: January 21, 2022
Label: Cappio Records
There’s something soothingly comforting about the music of 40 Watt Sun. Originally cobbled together from the wreckage of doom metal pioneers Warning, the project is now solely the baby of guitarist and vocalist Patrick Walker and, while there is some input from an array of guest musicians, this singular focus is clear to see. This is a very personal album, a sparse, stripped back affair, with Walker’s troubadour balladry very much taking centre stage. Indeed, with the Essex native’s penchant for poetic imagery, and gentle, repetitive strumming, Perfect Light is the kind of album to cleanse the soul, to sift into the background like a particularly lonesome lullaby.
This is the third album that Walker has released under the 40 Watt Sun moniker, and by now the standard has well and truly been set, even with the move to a solo project. Visions of love and loss play out over minimalistic soundscapes, the attention very much centred on Walker’s melancholic, Michael Stipe-esque vocals. ‘Reveal’ sets the tone – a love song pure and simple, it is achingly mournful yet adoringly lovely at the same time. There’s absolutely no bells and whistles on this one – just one man, one guitar, and one very beautiful song.
‘Behind My Eyes’ brings in a bass guitar and some drums, but this does little to distract from the lonely troubadour feel. Indeed, discussing the composition of Perfect Light seems a little like missing the point – this is an album where vocals are front and centre, where its author’s every emotion is writ large in every heartbreakingly held note – from the loss and loneliness of ‘Until’ and ‘A Thousand Miles’, to the echoing vein of self-hatred evident on the ‘Spaces in Between’.
A cynic might suggest that at times the emotion is a little too overwrought – there’s only so much it is possible to feel at any one time, after all. And, with song times that regularly approach the ten-minute mark, some tracks do end up feeling a little stretched out, like tortuously bathing in another man’s grief. Yet, it’s hard to deny 40 Watt Sun for what it is meant to be – a heartbreaking glimpse into the mind of one of the most emotive and underrated vocalists and songwriters in Britain today, both devastating and somehow calming at the same time. While it may sound a world away from the heft of Walker’s earlier work, Perfect Light is no less gut-wrenching.