Review: A Dancing Beggar – Follow The Dark As If It Were Light

This album sounds engrossed in the very sadness it wishes to escape from. There’s a sense of utopian fantasy about James Simmons’ soundscapes – angelic glimmers of guitar and piano, arriving in the most gradual and caressive of tidal surges – yet they constantly feel on the verge of dissolve, threatened by a melancholy that riddles each with heavy nostalgia and heartbreak, arriving in the loops of melody that trap themselves in infinite cycles.

At times, Follow The Dark As If It Were Light bears an unmistakable resemblance to Eluvium’s Talk Amongst The Trees – both build their pieces around the steady ascension and subsidence of gentle organic textures, and both seem most appropriate for pensive evening walks along the coast. In fact, my main criticism of Eluvium’s work is also applicable here: A Dancing Beggar’s choices of chord and harmony can often be too obvious, and regardless of their emotional significance on the artist’s part, it’s difficult to become poignantly absorbed by chord sequences that have already been wrung dry by countless artists previous.

The album’s first two pieces are the strongest of the lot. “Creeping Into Dusk” steadily introduces Simmons’ rich, ambient trademark with the gentle glow of major key drone, while “Empty Boats” provokes an atmosphere that slots perfectly into the desolation and neglect implied by its title – swaying woozily back and forth on gentle cymbal wash, with mournful falsetto howling into infinite, sun-baked seas. Even gorgeous moments such as these are tarnished with unavoidable comparisons to A Dancing Beggar’s multiple sound-alikes, but Follow The Dark As If It Were Light is strong enough to place him above many of these contemporaries.