In Review: Orlando Weeks - A Quickening

The breathtaking debut from The Maccabees frontman chronicles the journey to parenthood.
Posted: 23 June 2020 Words: Matthew Watkin

Having emerged during the era of indie landfill, it was a pleasant surprise to see The Maccabees grow into one of Britain’s most cherished bands. Their artistic growth was best reflected in their last two records – 2012’s Given to the Wild and then Marks to Prove It in 2015– which made their split three years ago all the more shocking. It was difficult to swallow, but there was some relief to be found in the band bowing out at the peak of their powers with relationships intact.

With the band’s break-up in the rear view, Orlando Weeks has embarked on a fascinating creative journey of his own. His first post-Maccabees project was his children’s book The Grinnerman, which came with a score he wrote and performed. Shades of that score linger on first album proper A Quickening. A chronicle of the anticipation and fears of becoming a father, it’s a tender and serene body of work, with Weeks’ delicate vocals adorning themselves in understated yet meticulous arrangements.

Opener ‘Milk Breath’ sets the tone for the album effectively. There’s a vicarious power in the comfort Weeks finds watching his son sleep – “How could I love you more, with each moro reflex,” he affectionately croons – as a gentle piano line, washes of brass and a flickering drumbeat coalesce to beautiful effect. The motorik ‘Safe In Sound’ captures the emotional whirlwind he experienced in the lead-up to his son’s birth, while on ‘Takes A Village’, he ruminates on being able to nurture his child in the most loving environment he can provide: “Baby wants the lights of the city / It’s better if you’re always with me”. This period of Weeks’ life has evidently given him purpose and clarity, as best demonstrated on ‘None Too Tough’. The instrumental swells as he repeats the phrase “Lift off” are moments of pure catharsis, as too are his realisations that love and family are his keys to happiness (“I better dance with someone / Make a life with someone”).

Building on the experimentation The Maccabees showed glimpses of towards the end of their run, Weeks basks in unconventional structures, minimal percussion and off-kilter instrumental sequences. Backed by ghostly guitar strums, his dramatic delivery on ‘Moon’s Opera’ vaguely resembles that of a soprano commanding a stage. Even more startling is ‘Dream’, where a choir-like female vocal and woodwind gives way to the ringing of bells and unsettling piano, ending the album on an ambiguous note.

Comparisons have rightly been made to the legendary Talk Talk, but the intimate details Weeks stitches into the album gives it its distinctiveness. A Quickening might not be as accessible as some would like, but it’s impossible not to be enveloped by its rich layers of sound and shimmering beauty. A breathtaking debut from a songwriter forging a bold new path.

A Quickening is out now on Play It Again Sam.

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