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Shapes & Shadows
Ben Ottewell Shapes & Shadows
Released 4 February 2011
Producer Ben Ottewell, Will Golden
Label Eat Sleep Records
Length 35:49
Genre Folk
Website benottewell.com

In 2007 Ian Ball became the first member of Gomez to leave the comfort of the band and go it alone with Who Goes There, an album that was well received and I’m sure proved a valuable exercise in creating an identity for Ball away from the band. Ben Ottewell is the next to break cover and follow suit with his solo debut Shapes & Shadows, written in stolen moments between recording and touring over the last five years.

So just what has been going on in the last five years? Gomez have somewhat slipped under the radar compared to their days spent whipping Piccadilly. Their last two albums peaked in the mid '60s in the UK and the reviews weren’t exactly glowing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Shapes & Shadows isn’t a triumphant life affirming album, it’s quite a low key affair with melancholic undertones, the songs focusing mostly on Ottewell and his guitar.

With such a stripped back sound the song writing needs to deliver and with Shapes & Shadows it does. Ottewell’s musical sensibilities come to the fore with some very nice touches that pop up throughout the album. The first such moment comes with the intro to the second track 'Lightbulbs'; a build up of overlapping notes on brass instruments which fades out to Ottewell’s guitar continuing the song. Likewise the unexpected shift to 3/4 time in the middle of 'Chicago' shows what thought has gone into these songs. Every beat and note has been scrutinized, explaining why it took five years to complete.

Perhaps with intimate venues in mind for touring this album, there is very little in the way of post production here. Songs like opening track 'Shapes And Shadows' and 'All Brand New' build up from guitar and vocals to include drums, bass and keys while 'Chose' sticks mostly to a piano and strings accompaniment. All three songs are effective yet never contain anything too difficult to replicate in a live situation. Even in the smallest of venues this album will play well.

Shapes & Shadows is a clear indication that Ottewell won’t stop if Gomez do. Just like Ball before him, Ben Ottewell has proven that he is a legitimate artist in his own right. There is a bit of a wow factor missing from this album but given the high standard of song writing throughout its of little consequence; it might take a while to grow on you but once it does it’s a splendid album.

- Brian Kinsella