Hayden Thorpe - Diviner - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Hayden Thorpe - Diviner

by David Bruggink Rating:9 Release Date:2019-05-24
Hayden Thorpe - Diviner
Hayden Thorpe - Diviner

Well, this is a treat: less than two years after Wild Beasts called it quits, to the collective dismay of all who enjoy sharp-witted and shimmering art pop, co-frontman Hayden Thorpe returns with an album sharing the same spirit as some of their most contemplative and earnest recordings. According to Thorpe, the album was inspired in part by seismic shifts in his life, conceived “in a deep period of flux” amidst the loss of his former systems of belief. Wild Beasts formed when Thorpe and the other boys were just teenagers and lasted for more than fifteen years, releasing five full-length albums and earning much critical acclaim along the way. One imagines that the dissolution of such a group would be emotionally painful for all involved, but with Diviner Thorpe seems to say that his introspection has been even more profound and spiritual.

With their final album, Boy King, Wild Beasts seemed to be so subsumed into their commentary on masculinity that it became difficult to draw the line between critique and self-expression – and perhaps that was the point. Thorpe’s Diviner, on the other hand, appears immediately vulnerable, free from the brash posturing of Boy King and instead returning to the more mellifluous textures and moods of Smother and Present Tense. Largely defined by Thorpe’s unique voice and piano, the album is unquestionably appealing in its spareness, with each instrument and note given space to breathe and reverberate. Producer Leo Abrahams, notable for his previous work with Wild Beasts as well as Jon Hopkins, lends a sensitivity and subtlety to the proceedings. 

Numerous tracks are gorgeous enough to stop you in your tracks, among them ‘Love Crimes,’ ‘Impossible Object’ and ‘Anywhen’ (perhaps a nod to Thomas Feiner’s similarly sincere and affecting oeuvre). Thorpe has described, in a refreshingly candid way, his belief in the “medicinal properties” of music, and you can feel in these songs his endeavour to both heal and be healed. The album has a mystical heart, probing what it means to live a life animated by transcendent spirit, as opposed to simply going through the motions. Anyone who has had an existential crisis of faced a loss of belief will resonate with ‘Diviner,’ where Thorpe’s ‘ghost had left my skin.’ Such intimacy and openness defines the album and pays off well. Wild Beasts may be no more (long live Wild Beasts!), but something new and beautiful has been born. 

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