Friday 6 September 2019

LISTEN: Christof van der Ven - 'You Were The Place'

I am ridiculously excited by this one - Christof van der Ven releases his second solo album You Were The Place today on Planet Zog Records. Please do yourself a favour and set aside some time to listen to it. I'm impressed at how quickly this album has come into our lives - juggling work as a chef, solo musician and playing live with Bear's Den, Christof made his way onto my albums of the year list last year with his debut Empty Handed. He's already released one of my favourite EPs of this year in the shape of Beneath The Ordinary Load and somewhere between that and some pretty extensive touring with the Bear's Den guys, he found time to recruit a talented ensemble of musical friends and create this record.

You Were The Place was recorded, produced and mixed by Christof's Bear's Den bandmate Marcus Hamblett (who is equally busy with an upcoming solo album of his own just announced) and features musical contributions from Tommy HeapJools OwenTommy SheenEmma Gatrill and Andrew Stuart-Buttle (you can spot most of these in the live videos below!) Between them they play with Matthew & The Atlas, Bear's Den, This Is The KitLucy Rose and more - an enormously strong foundation for an album and one which is audible in this album. The instrumentation is top notch!

The album was written and recorded over the three month period following the end of a brief and intense fling, and the result is a collection of tracks which cycle through the raw emotions that you might expect. As such it is incredibly personal and emotional, sad in places but full of hope and optimism in others. As his PR beautifully describes it, Christof "manages to harness a tentative optimism both sonically and lyrically throughout the album, reminding us to be thankful for the ability to love at all and that there will always be someone out there who can awaken even the most subdued of souls." 

In keeping with the raw themes at the heart of the record, Christof booked time in the studio and set himself a three month deadline to make the album before a single track was written. Far from it feeling rushed, the result is an album which says everything that it needs to about a situation which is deeply personal, while remaining relatable and offering listeners an opportunity to explore their own emotions through the tracks. Christof explains that "I think for people who've found themselves in this situation before, they can listen to the album and find that it helps them through a tough time. If that's something that I can do with this project, I'd be very grateful." 

It's hard to 'review' specific tracks on the record because it is clear both through knowledge of the creative process behind it, and from listening to it, that the album works best as a whole. Created in such a short and intense period the tracks sit beautifully together, building a story lyrically until the last few lines of closing track A Stranger with "the strangest of it all is you're a stranger to me now." To look at them, the lyrics read more like a collection of poetry than an album - he's a really talented writer and my sentiments surrounding his EP earlier in the year most definitely still stand, I really appreciate the honesty and integrity that is tangible throughout the writing. 

After a couple (alright, lots) of listens over the last couple of months I think that I've picked out 4AM as my stand out track on the album. One of the louder and busier tracks sonically, I love the live version in the video above and can imagine it getting a strong reaction in the live environment. Another track I'm loving is Fucking Loser - a pretty clear message in the name of the track and the refrain "I really am a fucking loser" but there's some hope in this one - "you were the place I stood, the day my feet were sore. A reminder I could love one still." Elsewhere I'm absolutely loving the horns section in Pill too. 

Christof heads out on tour in Europe and the UK in a few weeks, with shows in Brighton (The Hope & Ruin on 7th October) and London (The Lexington on 8th October) to launch the album. It's a full band tour and if his Waiting Room show earlier in the year is anything to go by, it is sure to be a gorgeous evening - full dates and tickets here.

Listen to the album on Spotify here and grab your physical copy through Christof's site here

Follow Christof van der Ven - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

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