John Canning Yates “The Quiet Portraits”

Violette Records, 2024

Dream Whispers from former Ella Guru frontman.

There is no question that the former Ella Guru singer and songwriter John Canning Yates has picked an appropriate title for his new solo album, which keeps itself determinedly at the threshold of a whisper. There’s a consistent sound across the album, a blend of lo-fi minimalism and, somewhat paradoxically, dreamily layered orchestration.  Album opener ‘The Way I Remember It‘ recalls a touch and go of friendship too tentative to take the leap to being love, a circling around each other with the possibility of being left with “no-one to come home to” mixed with the longing to actually commit and give “all the wasted years and all the years that still remain.”  It sets a melancholic tone for the album that remains, mostly, across all of the eleven songs that make up ‘The Quiet Portraits.’   Framed by a recording of a photographer explaining how he managed to take iconic photographs, ‘Until You Find Me (Song For Margaret Hardman)‘ dwells on not finding the right time or the right place to share emotions – all the appropriate times now being past and only existing as observed images.  How life should be navigated is facilely explained by that recorded voice, “it’s very simple, I tell you how to do it – you always want to try to be in the right spot at the right time, it’s very simple.”  Of course.

The somewhat uptempo ‘Faraway Blues‘ is a simple plea to not be left behind, issued perhaps a little too late as the distance between – physical or emotional – gets ever larger.  The pedal steel ache of ‘October Song‘ dwells on the combination of love longed for, and time passing that endlessly escapes.  It might seem that the whole of the album is something of a downer, but there’s a lot of consolation to be found in acceptance – a thought that is drawn to the fore on the album closer ‘Dreams Forgotten‘ which gently posits that pain can pass, and that other compensations can be found with John Canning Yates singing that “I was bothered by my dreams forgotten, but now I’m not.

The Quiet Portraits‘ is an album that doesn’t reveal its beauty straight away, but draws the listener in with repeated listens.  The reward is not an instant hit of musical pleasure; instead it is to float along with John Canning Yates’ stream of consciousness, to walk for a short while inside another’s dreams and weary thoughts.  Something of a slowly given gift, but one you’ll be glad to have received.


About Jonathan Aird 2746 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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