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Looking at Keaton Henson, your initial reaction might be something along the lines of, “oh, another indie folk guy with a beard.” While Henson does have an impressive amount of facial hair, his music stands out for its fragile, heartbreakingly bleak sadness. This stuff is not for the weak. His debut, ‘Dear,’ had music critics all around weeping (well, I wept, at least.)

‘Romantic Works’ is Henson’s third studio album, and it takes a deliberate turn from his previous style. He moves away from his singer-songwriter stylings in favor of classical arrangements. He also adds the work of cellist Ren Ford into each of the album’s nine tracks, along with natural sounds and ambience.

Opening track “Preface” sets the listener up for a more experimental album than precursor ‘Birthdays;’ it’s ambient and spacial. The next track, “Elevator Song,” adds drama with its sweeping cello and delicate piano. But the album’s quietest moments are its most powerful; the intimate, nostalgic  “Nearly Curtains” and tender “Petrichor” (which also features a lovely rain recording) are emotional highlights. The closing track, “Emissary,” nods subtly to Jeff Buckley, one of Henson’s personal inspirations.

The album’s production is nothing short of fantastic. I didn’t think that lo-fi classical was even possible, and yet here we are. It’s warm, the natural and ambient sounds are worked in perfectly, and above all, it sounds distinctly like Henson, which is a beauty in itself.

‘Romantic Works’ is a truly gorgeous album that proves  Henson is a brilliantly multi-faceted musician- and also stands as a testament that classical music doesn’t have to be traditional.

Julia’s rating: 8.5/10





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