So Bill Ryder Jones then. Not a man to be hemmed in making Electric Prunes rip offs all his life, the former guitarist from The Coral has all but ditched his psych-folk past in favour of soundtrack work. In March he provided a touch of cinematic panache to the Alex Turner collection for Submarine, while If… is his first full solo album.
Based on the novel ‘If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler’, the Jones set is suitably minimalist and well, cold. Relying on a core of chamber size strings and piano, compositions like ‘The Reader’ and ‘Intersect’ sound icy and restrained. Elsewhere, there’s the appearance of hushed, near inaudible vocals on ‘Leaning’ and ‘Give Me A Name’, but this does little to dispel the dour mood.
Of course there is also a frostbitten beauty to these dark orchestral musings. As bleak as If… may sound, it’s not without its charm. The album’s centerpiece ‘Enlace’ manages to move from the stark sound of a haunting piano motif to an improvised electric wig out. For a record otherwise lacking in Hendrix style fender bending, it’s an amusing and enjoyable reminder of Jones’ old day job. Ultimately this track, and indeed this album, shows Bill Ryder Jones stepping out of the shadows. With the briefest of touchstones to his past, he has proved himself an unexpected talent. As If… concludes you can’t help thinking there’s much more to come from the one time guitar slinger. How it’s delivered is anyone’s guess.