Wren Hinds “Don’t Die In The Bundu”

Bella Union Records, 2023

The warm soft winds of Hinds’ African homeland embrace this first offering for Bella Union.

‘Don’t Die In The Bundu’ is the fourth official album release from Wren Hinds who hails from the southeast coast of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, growing up with a musician for his father whilst his mother is a landscape painter. He released his debut album ‘Tragedy Hill’ back in 2018, followed by two further albums both released in 2020, the first ‘A Thousand Hearts’ quickly followed by ‘A Childs Chant For The New Millennium’. It was at this point that he came to the attention of Simon Raymonde, impresario of ‘Bella Union Records’, home for such renowned artists as Midlake, Father John Misty and Beach House to name just a few, and clearly impressed with what he heard decided to release those first three albums on vinyl under their ‘Private Pressing Imprint’.

Fast forward twelve months and we have the imminent release of Hinds’ first official album for his new record label with the title ‘Don’t Die In The Bundu’ being inspired by his experience of being held up at gunpoint in Cape Town. Fortunately no one was harmed, though it can only be imagined what mental scars such an impact might leave, but if you were expecting the songs here to bear witness to this event you’d be greatly mistaken. Instead Hinds delivers an album that draws from the palate of both his parents, painting with sound, as he creates a tapestry of beautifully nuanced textures that quickly transports the listener to Africa’s vast savanna plains. The album, recorded at a timber cabin in the south peninsula mountainside approximately 40km outside of Cape Town, is self-produced and highlights Hinds’ skill at layering instruments to supply an ambience of soft pastel colours gently dappled by his guitar playing and singing. Hinds’ vocals betray a greater confidence than on previous albums whilst recent fatherhood has helped to crystallise his perspective and dictates the lyrical narrative on such songs as ‘Restless Child’ and ‘Razor Wing’ while on ‘Father’ his focus is drawn to the social unrest in his homeland as he sings “This town, the place where I come from. I see it ignite, I see them loot”, his voice still managing to reveal a sense of hope amidst the futility. Elsewhere other high points include ‘Dream State’ with it’s soft beguiling melody offering a simple juxtaposition to the intimate strength within the vocal delivery and ‘The Garden’ which incorporates a broader range of  instrumentation within the arrangement that helps to envelop the track in a warm expansive glow.

With ‘Don’t Die In The Bundu’, Hinds’ has achieved a greater level of maturity and evolution within his artistic development compared to previous work creating a stunning musical landscape as a backdrop to his lyrical prose as he tackles the challenges of parenthood along with the trial of our times. If there is a slight criticism it lies firstly with the poetry which occasionally lacks clear focus or direction. Enticing lyrical prose are too often left to drift off into the ether, an almost deliberate sense of ambiguity that leads to an unsatisfactory conclusion. This is an issue he himself would seem to be aware of as towards the end of the final track he sings “I’ve got a head full of sonnets, and it won’t reach them”. A line that perfectly highlights the problem. Secondly, though each track stands comfortably on its own, each cloaked in its dreamy ambiance the lack of any discernible change in tempo, vocal delivery or percussive punctuation throughout the album means that collectively the songs over repeated listens have a tendency to bleed into one another.

Having said that ‘Don’t Die In The Bundu’ is still a beautiful album that should see Hinds’ profile and reputation continue in the ascendancy with its ten hymns to hope all wrapped in a musical landscape of warm winds and pristine sunsets, the perfect conduit to escape our wet and windy summer for the tranquillity of the savanna plains.

7/10
7/10

About Graeme Tait 120 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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