Novo Amor – Birthplace

Ali John Meredith-Lacey aka Novo Amor, is a new breed of artist, and one making some serious waves with his fantastic combination of atmospheric, primarily acoustic music, and stunning visuals. He’s also a DIY artist, who through sheer hard work has spread the word via blogs, Youtube, and the internet in general, winning legions of fans who love the highly emotive and ethereal music he makes, as well as the grand cinematic videos that accompany many of his creations. New album Birthplace is his first proper solo album, following on the heels of last year’s collaboration, Heiress, with good friend Ed Tullett, and he’s currently in the middle of his biggest tour to date, a 29 date affair spanning the globe. A reticent live performer in the beginning, his recent Brighton and London shows were all sold out, such is the interest in this thoughtful , modern artist.

Working from his home studio in Cardiff, Novo Amor’s (‘New Love’ in Portuguese) Birthplace is first and foremost a reflective album, particularly concerning his ‘re-birth’ – change and letting go – following a broken relationship a few years back. He refers to this prevalent theme of the album, and the title track in particular, as ’emigrating from himself’. Lead track ‘Emigrate’ sets the scene; finger-picked guitar, violins, brass, and marching drums are used to create an atmosphere that ebbs and flows, then rising to big peaks, whilst leaving plenty of space for the mind to soak in its glorious ambience. And ‘Birthplace’ itself revolves around plucked, ticking clock-like strings, a piano motif, and small bouts of thunderous drums, before gently easing into a calm conclusion, while ‘Utican’ is simply stunning, with its breathtaking movement from just plaintive voice, to triumphant realisation, that he is now finding control and a way back from despair: “Oh, let me down, my body’s sinking, I can feel it now / Oh, hear me out, I’ve been thinking I won’t stick around”. These and pretty much everything else on the album are beautifully hand-crafted, but minimally decorous, and never indulgent, all the songs kept short and sweet. It’s been made by someone who patently knows their way around a studio, and various instruments, with the help of violin and brass players, whilst allowing bleed to seep in here and there, giving the production an honest earthiness so lacking in many a-polished musical creation.

And the rustic falsetto Bon Iver style voice tops it all off elegantly, with a touch of melancholic sadness throughout, on stories of drug addiction (‘Repeat Until Death’), of the fluttering bird mimicking – again like migration – of ‘Anniversary’, before the music builds and builds as Lacey repeatedly sings: “Time won’t make it right, I know that / I can’t make it mine, I know that”. And perhaps the most pop-like moment, the driving hands-in-the-air anthem that is ’Sleepless’, is again another expression of the storm-before-the-calm of much of Lacey’s work, in music and in words.

Contemplative, meditative, and yet bursting with life in its relative simplicity, Birthplace is indeed the big awakening of a truly remarkable, and largely self-made artist. “Save your life as all you’ve ever known and ever owned”, he sings on Seneca.

Jeff Hemmings