Ben Howard returns with his fourth album, “Collections From The Whiteout”. It is released on the 26th March 2021 through Island Records. Produced alongside Aaron Dessner (The National, Sharon Van Etten, Taylor Swift), “Collections From The Whiteout” heralds the first time Ben has opened the door to production outside of he and his bands closer confines. To coincide with its announcement, the first single ‘What A Day’ is now available.
Ben: “This was a nonsense idea loosely thrown together on the Old English rhyme, ‘back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other’ with a bit of animal hysteria thrown in. Cloe somehow transformed a basic countryside shoot ‘em up into an amazing tale of delightful retribution
“Cloe is a queen of dark comedy and I’m so grateful that as friends we got to work together on it. The eclectic Bulgarian cast and crew somehow managed to pull this off in strange times. It was all the more entertaining in a completely foreign language.”
The foreboding darkness that coated Ben’s second record I Forget Where We Were and thinly veiled its follow up Noonday Dream, isn’t so evident on Collections.. These are songs written from headlines scanned, or news stories scrolled past. Ben has taken those snippets and let his curiosity take control, creating an aural scrapbook that reverberates with tape loops and guitar FXs. Those stories sifted from the news provided inspiration for a selection of vivid narrative snapshots – the death of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (Crowhurst’s Meme); Russian fraudster Anna Sorokin (Sorry Kid); Richard Russell, the man who stole and crashed a plane in Seattle (The Strange Last Flight Of Richard Russell); and the dismembered body a friend of his father found in a suitcase floating along the Thames (Finders Keepers). An England puffed up into absurdity by political outrage and infighting all fed these songs. Alongside them, the personal anecdotes from the same scattered period living between Paris, Devon and finally Spain. There are sounds akin to Brian Eno, Durutti Column and Steve Reich in there, but also Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt. It’s a million miles away from Ben’s multi-platinum selling debut, but a path plotted from Ben’s then to his now isn’t so far removed.
But if you’re opening the door to a producer’s input, you might as well leave it ajar for some new players too. Aaron has hands and feet in all the pies, and he opened up his contacts book to pepper the stew. Yussef Dayes, one of the UK’s most innovative young drummer/producer’s, especially in the field of jazz features, as does Kate Stables from This Is The Kit, James Krivchenia from Big Thief, Kyle Keegan from Hiss Golden Messenger, and Aaron lent his hand too where needed. Thomas Bartlett, St. Vincent’s go-to pianist, and Rob Moose, a long-standing arranger of strings for Bon Iver and collaborator to Laura Marling, Blake Mills, and Phoebe Bridgers is also present, seasoning the mix accordingly. Long-term guitarist to Ben’s band, Mickey Smith, remains a reassuring constant.
It’s a substantial record. A sonic adventure that continues this nagging suggestion that Ben Howard is one of the UK’s most inventive and naturally talented of songwriters. Collections From The Whiteout is his latest opus, and arguably his most fully realised to date.