Willis Earl Beal

Noctunes

Tender Loving Empire

Aug 31, 2015 Issue #54 - August/September 2015 - CHVRCHES Bookmark and Share


In the last two years since he was plucked from homelessness and obscurity, signed to (and quickly released from) a big record label deal, man of mystery Willis Earl Beal has been relishing his reclaimed life as a "nobody." After his 2012 debut and two subsequent albums, the Chicago native's career has followed a "rags to riches to rags" narrative that is less inspiring to people than the typical indie success story, but for the introverted folk/soul minimalist, he's right in the creative sweet spot. Beal has become the mythical outsider artist he desired to be, and not the token "soul man" he felt he was being portrayed as. It makes sense then that his latest album would be titled Noctunes, as it's a drowsy collection of beat-less songs that are miles away from his bellowing soulful grit. Trading solely on sparse, elevator muzak-style synth and tightly looped vocals, Beal has wandered into the territory of sullen lounge singers and retirement home entertainers. His voice is more mellifluous than the rough edges found on Nobody Knows, but by polishing out all the bumps the tracks are barely distinguishable from each other (perfect for anyone with insomnia, or a fetish for ASMR). Beal has said of his creative process that "all recording is an experiment in time." Noctunes, unlike his previous records, is a work suspended in time, amorphous and entrancing, but ultimately too shapeless to hold its own weight. (www.willisearlbeal.com)

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