Holes & Corners is an all-too-short slice of life, offering eight songs of breezy discontent, and it sounds beautifully polished for what is essentially a bedroom recording.

The passive avoidance of conflict that runs through the debut album from Ben Mason (formerly of The Smallgoods) is nicely summed up on opening track, ‘Avoiding A Fight’. The undercurrent of unease is reflected in a promo clip of feet moving without any clear direction, and with no real start or finish. Despite this, the gentle, warming melodies do enough to convince you that the lyric “Everything will work out fine” is not entirely in vain.

The following track, ‘Black Sky, Yellow Moon’, sees the ominous mood leak a little more into the music. The album continues along its casual yet conflicted route until closer ‘Word For Word’ opens up to sunshine and blue sky, even though the sky is “blue like you”. A dead-eyed fence sitter is berated with the repeated mantra, “All that you know is all that you’ve learned / All you repeat is all that you’ve heard / Cause you don’t have opinions of your own” as the song fades out. It’s aimlessly stuck in the middle, but its charms lure you into its hypnotic, looping centre.

If Holes & Corners leaves you wanting more, you can explore Mason’s recent reinterpretations of other musicians’ works, including a full-album reworking of The Zombies’ Odyssey And Oracle and a capella covers of songs originating from Australia and Portland. It’s all worth tracking down, but I’ll be primarily looking forward to the next piece that originates from Mason’s own mind.

3/5 stars

BY CHRIS GIRDLER

Holes and Corners is out now independently.

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