The first moments of No Recover are, in many ways, a signpost. A signal of things to come over the course of Eric Bachmann’s fourth solo album. The softly building persistent tap, fingerpicked motif and throaty vocals of ‘Jaded Lover, Shady Drifter’ are incredibly pretty in their distant separation, but crucially are techniques that are used often and to great effect throughout the album. Each instrument, each part, each idea clearly distinct from the others but gently layered to construct a delicate whole that relies on its simplicity to display its depths. Bachmann is, without a doubt, an incredibly talented and creative musician. His unique body of work stretching back to the mid-nineties with Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers as well as his instrumental work as Barry Black is a testament to that. But his recent solo work – especially here with No Recover – sees him harnessing a restrained and organic sound to deeply moving effect.
It’s an album that straddles the line between hope and pain throughout. A collection of tracks that deal with sadness and isolation even amidst the unlikely thread of love it clings to throughout. Bachmann’s words feel as important here as his carefully crafted building song structures as he seeks the moments of light in a world that doesn’t always make it clear. ‘Daylight’ puts a direct name to such metaphors. “Daylight through my window, through my door, into my heart”, he crows over a glittering ball of gently crescendoing picked guitars, “if you try, you can be loved.” It leads into the most uplifting song of the record, both lyrically and atmospherically, in ‘Murmuration Song’. It’s a track that most closely resembles a classic rock anthem, a plea to make a mark on the sky like the shifting patterns of starlings. “Nobody hates you like you hate yourself, they’re all too busy to,” is the darkly droll observation, a message maybe aimed at someone in particular but all too relevant to so many, as a meandering solo guitar line prances among the song’s soft momentum.
If any criticism can be made, it’s that the songs blend a little. Bachmann, clearly adept at building fragile creations, uses a formula that is very effective but also repetitive. In many ways it does work, the record can almost be taken as a concept album, one whole piece of many movements. But for those seeking the variety of Bachmann’s career, it’s not distilled into an album here, No Recover is its own book that tells its own story. Perhaps best exemplified in the gorgeous harmonies of the title track. Bachmann tells the tale of the inability to leave a dead-end town, even as he takes cover “in the summer when the tourists reign”. It’s a story of the busy world taking away our shot at peace or redemption. “No recover, I ain’t got time for any,” he sings. It’s a sad and despairing impression of someone seeking something ideal and falling short, the fleeting moments of nature, of “feeling the sun on your skin”, proving all too brief respite. It’s forlorn, but in its gentle beauty No Recover provides the catharsis many of us need to escape for awhile.