Daudi Matsiko “An Introduction to Failure” (Naim Records, 2017)

It’s clear from the moment the steely opening arpeggios breath life into Daudi Matsiko’s first full release, that this is going to be an up-close and personal journey. It’s one that starts like a rainstorm with opening track Home’s gentle bursts of fingerpicked melody giving way to a more substantial flow of strummed heartbreak. Before too long a bass drum brings the promise that it’s going to hammer it down and as the song builds, it briefly does, before giving way to the gentle drip of the storm’s end.

This is as energetic as Matsiko seems to want to get and the rest of this double EP is mostly given to more gentle lyrical musings that frantically whisper ‘catharsis’ at every turn. Soulful metaphors, sometimes bordering on the twee (Your love was an atom bomb, my heart was Nagasaki) are sung with a light-touch breathiness that brings to mind Jack Johnson one moment and Elliot Smith the next, fitting perfectly with the reflective and personal folk sound that comes from his closely recorded guitar – so closely recorded in fact that the metallic scrape of his left hand shifting chords can jar slightly on occasion, as though its somehow encroaching on such intimate space between musician and listener.  Fifth track Sandwiches has a touch more rhythmic swagger but it’s something of an island in the middle of thirty minutes of more gently bobbing waters. This is music to draw you close in, not fill stadiums and confessional seventh track Ok… Since We’re Being Honest does a lovely job of this with a stately sustained organ chord whilst final track Take Me Old deals in tension and eventual release, even if it does sound like early Josh Ritter in places.

It’s an emotional album and a well executed one – he’s a skilled guitarist and an evocative singer – but ultimately the gentle self-reflection and sparsely picked chords will arpeggiate the heartstrings of some whilst strumming the nerves of others.

Author: Phil Grant

Writer and Educator. Find on Twitter and Instagram @Playingtheactor

Leave a comment..