Review: Andrew Weatherall – Convenanza

If you’re unfamiliar with the name Andrew Weatherall, then you must have had your head buried under a rock for the last 25 years while listening exclusively to The Very Best Of Chris De Burgh. The DJing, remixing and producing polymath has worked with New Order, The Happy Mondays, Björk, Saint Etienne, Primal Scream, The Orb and My Bloody Valentine, to name only a handful. He co-founded the Boy’s Own Recordings label, played in Two Lone Swordsmen with Keith Tenniswood and, as if all that wasn’t enough, he can even pull off wearing a beret.

Weatherall has worked on various curios of late, such as the Woodleigh Research Facility LP, a hauntological collaboration with Nina Walsh that came out earlier this year, but Convenanza is his first “proper” solo album since 2009 (though Walsh and other collaborators feature here too).Convenanza doesn’t exactly break any radically fresh ground but we can probably let Weatherall off for that. He’s already earned his position in the Tower of Song for cultural contributions like the celebrated club mix of The Happy Mondays’ ‘Hallelujah’ or the time he transformed Primal Scream’s ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’ into the ecstasy-frazzled era-defining single ‘Loaded’. And even if Convenanza does prove more nostalgic than pioneering, there’s still much to enjoy in Weatherall’s downbeat indie-dance collages.

Navigating a middle ground somewhere between mellow and abrasive, ‘Frankfurt Advice’ blends funky rhythm guitars, spikier post-punk lead licks and very trippy trumpet gusts to hallucinogenic effect. Weatherall’s distinctively echoed and vaguely amateurish Estuary-accented vocals emerge on the next number, ‘The Confidence Man’, buttressed by dubby Jah Wobble-y bass trembles, tin-like drum beats and spiralling electro bleeps. Singing about reptiles, lions, deluge and dread, it’s not exactly euphoric dance-floor-friendly stuff and is perhaps better suited for more paranoid pastimes, such as peering through your bedroom curtains and wondering if the parked van marked ‘Nice Doggy Pet Services’ is actually a front for the MI5. “Drop seditious messages for me,” Weatherall insists on the more overtly dramatic synth-string-centric ‘The Last Walk’. “Spread fictitious memories of me,” he continues, sounding like a mumbling myth-shrouded character from some ambiguous spy thriller.

Less potent are tracks like the funk-lite filler ‘Kicking The River’, a frothy composition that fails to justify its 6-minute running time, or ‘Thirteenth Night’, on which the idyllic keyboard pattern floats worryingly close to a discarded Lightning Seeds remix. The trumpet rears its brassy head once more for ‘We Count The Stars’. This time it’s practising more of a free-jazz style which, in tandem with its accompanying phantom handclaps and ominous bass lines, sonically mirrors the tossing and turning of the woeful insomnia that Weatherall describes in his lyrics.

This grizzled pioneer of indie-dance fusion saves his most indie-ish composition for last. While adorned with various moody effects, at its heart ‘Ghost Again’ is a straightforward acoustic ballad, a little reminiscent of Unkle’s more subdued pieces. “Let’s conjure up the ghosts again,” he sings on this final track. If that’s what he was trying to achieve with this record, not to make any courageous musical innovations but, rather, to summon the spirits of the genres that have informed his enviable life and important works – post-punk, dub, indie, reggae and rave – and momentarily mingle them together in a multi-genre séance, then on its own merits Convenanza is a resounding success.

Written by JR Moores