Mark Howden: Horizons (Waht)

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Mark Howden: Pattern Blue
Mark Howden: Horizons (Waht)

Auckland singer-songwriter Howden appeared previously with two short albums: one of him in rock band mode, the other more of the acoustic persuasion, both under the name The Black Leaf.

This new album (Horizons may be the title or the nom de disque) is an extension of the acoustic direction in dreamy, literate songs which recall the atmospheric folk-pop of Neil Halstead's wonderful Sleeping on Roads, and that's a big compliment because Halstead's is an Essential Elsewhere album.

With an acoustic backdrop of fingerpicking but some deftly weaving electric guitar throughout, a touch of piano and some tonal electronics, Horizons explores the mystical aspects of love, life and the great unknown.

But this isn't introverted bedroom-folk, more like ambiguous poetry set to song and delivered with gentle warmth because the object of his affections (real or imagined) has brought out the best in the singer's character.

And through the production, Howden's voice seems slightly distant in most places which adds an extra level of interest as it becomes another insrument providing a melodic line even when the words elude you.

The final track, the seven-minute multi-layered Belong recorded live, shows he can do this outside of the home studio too.

Howden may be hiding his light under different names (or even anonymous in this case if Horizons is the album title) and a slightly confusing record label spelling, but it's a pleasure to bask in it. For more on him go here.

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