Piers Faccini ‘Shapes of the Fall’ LP/CD (Beating Drum/No Format!) 5/5

Piers Faccini where have you been all my life? Before now, our paths haven’t crossed, but like the gaining of a new friend, I think our journey together will be a rewarding one. The art of songwriting and making music is a journey. Within the tunes on “Shapes of the Fall”, which is actually Faccini’s ninth studio album, I really feel as if I’m sharing in part of that journey. And that my friends, is the very best result for a songsmith. It is good that the art of songwriting is alive and well.

Faccini’s songs breathe. They sigh, they retort, they are shaped by his life and his beliefs, at one with nature. His voice laments, his voice cajoles, his voice speaks with honesty and integrity, telling short yet beautiful stories that I wholeheartedly connect with. There’s a subtle yet clearly defined connectedness between the earth and the writer who roams it, organic, natural, compelling and harmonious.

Faccini follows his passion for pursuing the kind of cross-cultural dialogues that have long been heard on Mediterranean shores throughout the centuries, bridging southern Europe with the Near East and Africa. Although the songs are written and sung in English, the musical influences heard within this album draw heavily on Faccini’s own Mediterranean ancestry, creating a musical voyage whose geography varies from song to song, crossing multiple frontiers with his voice over the course of the journey.

Folky in an understated Nick Drake kind of way, bluesy in an off-kilter Tom Waits kind of way, it’s difficult to pigeon-hole Faccini’s music, which is always a good thing in my book. Having only discovered his music now, it’s fair to say he shares the same uniqueness as the two aforementioned songwriters. There’s genuine care and warmth in his expression. Ruin or repair and hope or despair are the album‘s parallel narratives and if shapes of the fall are the myriad endangered forms that make up the mosaic of our environmental collapse, the descent, Faccini sings, is of our doing or undoing. ”Bring me my home back”, the chorus of the album’s emblematic opening song “They Will Gather No Seed” is not then, the singer’s personal cry for a home, but the animal lament of innumerable species on the brink of extinction. This opening piece genuinely sent shivers down my spine on first listen, and with each listen thereafter the words and music found a way deeper and deeper into my soul.

Two exceptional voices feature on the album; Californian singer-songwriter Ben Harper, a collaborator from his 2005 album, “Tearing Sky”, and Moroccan singer and master of the trance traditions known as Gnawa, Abdelkebir Merchane. Both artists bring something inspiring to the proceedings, Harper with his edgy, bluesy slide guitar, Merchane a wonderfully and intuitively integrated Middle Eastern feel. The deep groove on tunes like “Foghorn Calling” and “All Aboard” offer a refreshing vibrancy, whilst tunes such as “Levante” and “Remember Them” have an almost mystical vibe to them. The simple beauty of “The Real Way Out” gets me every time I listen, and the heart-wrenching pull of “Together Forever Everywhere” is just stunning. The subtle, beautiful arrangements throughout this album just add to the overall engaging and immersive nature of the whole experience.

Thank you to the God of Music for sending me this album to review (well, Steve our editor actually…) Piers Faccini, I’d say maybe one day we’ll meet, but through your songs I feel like we already have. Long may you continue singing your stories.

Mike Gates