I have to start by addressing the elephant in the room. When someone you recognise from one creative field turns up in another, usually, as in this case, a recognisable actor making music, it suggests one of two scenarios. Either they have become so recognisable that their agent has calculated the laws of diminishing returns and decided that they are at a level of celebrity that they can put any old music out and it everyone will recoup their stake and more. The more palatable situation, however, is that you are dealing with someone who has always been widely artistic, who has any number of strings to their creative bow and just because they are better known for one discipline over the others does not take anything away from any other path you find them exploring. Sail The Sea is definitely the product of the second scenario.
Sail The Sea is one of those records that is built around understatement and calm, there is often little more than guitar and vocals building the songs and it is all the better for it. Music doesn’t have to be intricate and weighty when it can get the same job done through deftness and restraint. The old cliche of less is more is certainly at work here but the art of such a route is knowing just which less to use and which more to leave out. It is a skill that Matheson is certainly well versed in and the voids that he creates in the pauses between the lyrics and the spaces between one fading note and the strike of the next creates its own form of atmosphere and anticipation. Instruments in their own right to play an otherworldly counterpoint to the more tangible elements of the music.
As an album it is wonderfully reflective, beautifully spacious and, something we are sorely in need of in modern times, fantastically positive. With all the darkness that there is to dwell on, it is great to come across an album that lets the light in, that is intimate yet relatable and that sees the best in the world around it. What a breath of fresh air! Songs such as Goodbye lean toward that Damien Rice blend of vocal lines that are left hanging provocatively, shimmering harmonies and softly brooding cellos, and Climb All The Way is as re-assuring a sentiment as you are ever going to find to lean on in your moment of need. She Said She Could wanders some more jaunty territory, relatively speaking, but still adheres to the same elegance and musical eloquence as the more drifting moments of the album and the title track rounds the whole thing off in a gentled majestic and empowering moment of perfection.
Hans Matheson has created a thing of beauty here and also the perfect reminder that whilst it is easy to make an statement by being bold and bombastic, there is an art to linking such gossamer sounds, such delicacy and drifting ethereality together into something just as impactful. Sail the Sea is a beguiling exercise in that art and a very successful one at that.