JOHN BLEK – Digressions #2 Grounded (We Are Rats WARR014)

Digressions #2 GroundedDigressions #2 Grounded is well described. 2020 was certainly a digression from “normal” life and grounded is what most of us were. Artists reacted differently to the restrictions: some went back to basics and recorded acoustic sets, some released digital tracks and some explored the possibilities of remote recording to collaborate at a socially acceptable distance. John Blek did the latter but he also took the opportunity to expand his musical palette into electronics inviting support from fellow singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brian Casey.

The opening track, ‘Summer’s Lament’, drenched in synthesiser strings suggest that this may be a dark affair but John quickly moves on from the gloom and looks to the future. ‘Right Moves’ and ‘Like A Child’ are both up-tempo songs and rather jolly if you don’t pay too much attention to some of the lyrics. The former has a faux-Chinese feel and the latter veers towards jangling country with what sound like electronic handclaps. In fact, the final track, ‘Joy In Sorrow’, sums up the approach of the album very neatly. ‘Bloodlines’, ‘O My God’ and ‘Thin Air’ all sound lovely but there is deep sadness in them although in ‘Thin Air’ John talks in the past tense as though he’s put all that behind him.

‘My Father’s Son’ is a spoken piece and a bit of an oddity; a cross between ‘Desiderata’ and Kipling’s ‘If’. It makes some excellent points but rather too many of them – there are the roots of five or six more songs in its verses. The record is rounded out by two fine instrumentals, ‘Into The Morning’ and ‘Walk On’, both of which feature John’s acoustic guitar playing.

I’ve enjoyed listening to Digressions #2 Grounded although I admit that it’s taken me some time to settle into it and I’m still not entirely sure where John is going with it. That’s not a problem – I’m still listening and enjoying.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Right Moves’ – the lockdown video: