From writing all of the songs to recording at home playing all instruments and contributing all vocals to designing artwork and packaging with partner Emily Bryson, Reclamation is a very personal project for the artist known as A Clearing (a.k.a. Matt Saunders). And there is much to like about it.
With drums/percussion as his first instrument, it might have turned into a drumfest with every track designed to show off Matt’s expertise with the sticks, but not so! Each song is a song in its own right, with instrumentation chosen to show Matt’s skill as a songwriter. Some songs do not feature any drums at all!
The CD opens a little unexpectedly with rocker Freefall – with Matt sounding like a three piece grunge band featuring fuzz guitar, bass and drums. Despite the noise the song features a rather catchy melody and some fairly astute lyrics.
The sound of the first track is carried over into Reclamation, which again rocks along rather nicely. If I had one little niggle about these tracks it is that I might have pushed the voice a little higher in the mix. Reclamation, being the title track, clearly has some important personal statements (“take back what is mine”) and it might have been better to have these lyrics more to the forefront.
Consequential Matters begins with acoustic guitar and voice clear and strong during the verses, with the grunge sound of the first tracks lifting the chorus. This is particularly effective given the call and response nature of verse and chorus, a relationship being told from two separate points of view.
The album takes an acoustic turn with the utterly charming song Astray – a story told from the point of view of an old dog expressing gratitude for the care he has received in the latter stages of his life, having been taken in as a stray after a neglected past. With just acoustic guitar and voice up front in the mix, the lyrics are poignant, revealing that the dog is fully aware of everything that is now being done for him.
Back to a gentler electric guitar sound, with bass and drums for the slow ballad Unsent Letter. A desperately sad song about loneliness and love gone wrong, I can imagine this song being picked up by any number of commercial recording artists.
All That I Can Offer has perhaps suffered a little from being under-produced. It’s an attractive song, with a memorable chorus, which I can imagine being done by a full band, but here the guitar playing is a little too tentative and careful, with the guitar sound a little raw and thin.
By contrast, Nothing Left is beautifully produced and played, beginning softly and building to a powerhouse of sound, before dropping back to repeat the pattern. But even at its most histrionic there are no drums! This drummer’s self-control is amazing!
The album concludes with simple acoustic guitar and voice on Perfect Sunrise, with a ‘Streets Of London’-style verse, showing Matt in singer-songwriter mode. If A Clearing should hold thoughts of being a busker or folk performer the evidence is here!
So plenty of variety, strong ideas and memorable songs, this limited release CD is available now and worthy of your attention. Reclamation is another reminder of the depth of songwriting talent currently at work in Adelaide.
Reclamation by A Clearing is available to stream and purchase from aclearing.net. Click HERE to purchase your copy.