When it comes to enjoying artistic freedom, it’s those in charge of their own destiny who generally call the shots. Could the Futureheads have made their recent (excellent) a capella album if they hadn’t been on their own label? It’s doubtful. English acoustic artist Kathryn Williams recorded and released her debut album herself for £80, seeing the follow up nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. A subsequent stint on a major label wasn’t quite so productive but since returning to her DIY approach, Williams has been inspired – even recording a children’s album with a member of punk band Delicate Vomit.
The Pond sees her continue in the same exploratory vein, albeit back on a bigger label. Put together with Ginny Clee of the Dear Janes and ex-Fairground Attraction member Simon Lee (as well as bring mixed by Portishead’s Adrian Utley), it sounds like a genuine band as opposed to a side project, taking what’s great about Williams’ solo work and applying bold new twists. And what twists they are. It appears that no idea has been rejected, with trip hop, hip-hop, ’60s pop and electronic beats all applied to pretty acoustic songwriting. It was a wise decision, as nothing here seems not to work.
Perhaps one reason that The Pond is such a success is that it doesn’t display a desperate desire to be on point and up to date, rather everything is here to serve the song. The album has an overriding laid back feel, not that far removed from Lemon Jelly or Morcheeba when they were really good (on Big Calm album, in case you were wondering), yet occasionally will throw in a hint of Chumbawamba or a pop chorus to give you a jolt. For an artist to strike this rich vein of form after 13 years is generally unheard of, yet in this new company Kathryn Williams has produced a diamond.