If Richard Haswell was better known there would be riots outside the offices of dictionary specialists HarperCollins, for the word ‘prolific’ would be too restrictive – crowds would throw random letters at the building with reckless abandon in a vain attempt to create new words to describe the impressive work ethic of the Edinburgh musician. Okay, probably not but with Safety in Movement his twentieth album, we know this dude means business.
The challenge with this latest album from Haswell is not the quality of the songs, which would invariably score a creditable ‘not bad’ by anyone’s criteria but the sheer lightness of the production, which gives the music an uncommonly delicate feel that is difficult to really relax around, like sitting under a tree only to have leaves fall on you steadily. Peaceably wandering through forty minutes of pleasant folk-rock, there is a lot to enjoy on this album, especially if you have some spare time to lie perfectly still.
The only problems are that the songs lack bite, there’s some great ideas that are diluted in overly long songs when something shorter would have had greater effect. Perhaps that was contrary to Haswell’s intentions but it leaves Safety In Movement with an overbearing feeling of unfulfilled potential. ‘Arise’ and ‘The Rings of Saturn’ would benefit in more slender renditions, the latter certainly doesn’t need to be pushing seven minutes, and it’s telling that ‘Magnetic North’, the shortest song on the album, is one that has the most lasting impact.
There’s also the amusing ‘Post Goldrush Blues’, which is a protest song in support of Neil Young, requesting that we discard our Beatles albums in favour of Neil Young (because surely nobody could have both?), come on! That’s like trading an orange for a satsuma. There are more worthy villains on the music scene than Paul and John surely. This is definitely a good, if flawed, album but its difficult not to view this as something of a missed opportunity. It could be a lot better.