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The John Williams Syndicate - Out Of Darkness (Wulfrun)

5 June 2021

This is something to hear, and with good reason. While you may be unfamiliar with the name The John Williams Syndicate, you will instantly recognize a connection to some of the most important recorded music of the past four decades. This outfit is a project by producer, and indispensable A&R man John Owen Williams (worth a Google). John, is responsible for the production on albums by The Housemartins, Alison Moyet, The Almighty, along with essential BBC sessions for The Killing Joke, The Cure and Simple Minds. In truth, the music he produced is known to us all, and now he is releasing his debut album which is something special. However, it is worth noting The Syndicate is a gathering of some indispensable musicians and vocalists, who together help John create this sculpture. 

The long-player Out Of Darkness is a collection of songs that vibrate with an honest positivity. With themes that transcend love, fusing hope and inspiration into our everyday existence. It is a record that acts as a celebration of the best parts of humanity, something that the last eighteen months have shown us all. And the uplifting zeitgeist arrives at the start. The first track “Loud And Clear” pins the colours to the mast early on. With lyrics such as “Loud and clear you shine, like the moonlight.”, the oozing of infectious melodies becomes instantly addictive. The first of the artists which make up the Syndicate enters the frame on “New Flag” with the ageless Petula Clark. Both artists collaborated in the past on the lady’s recent solo outings, here though the chemistry they have built up together shines. The acoustics glisten, an electric guitar line releases some drama, but the vocals of both compliment each other in a subtle ‘call and response’. The song acts the sunshine breaking through darkness, and a welcome warmth from an old friend. 

As the track “Luminescent” lifts, with the skillful songstress Claudia Brücken, another dimension to the album is revealed. It becomes more thought provoking, that gentleness anchors itself in reality, and the hardship of broken love is examined fully. This is followed by the hypnotic “Close To You”, a beautiful soundscape, an almost cinematic track with slight nods to the sixties and the psychedelic pop of the past. Though the newcomers, such as Isabella Coulstock are given the right space here, and “You’re On My Mind” is a dramatic, eighties-style banger. Again John Willians breaks the song cycle with a stretch into another genre, and projects perfectly the fact that Out Of Darkness can throw out the unexpected. 

The aforementioned Isabella returns along with another newcomer in Slicko Dicaprio. On “Spanish Song”, a European flavour erupts, both vocalists take things to another level of brilliance. While Isabella sings her lines in Spanish, Slicko brings the soulful dynamic to counteract her dreamy vocals. Not only is this a new direction and embracing another genre, but it is also embracing another culture. That is the genius of this album. Further galvanized with the smooth jazz of “You Got Me From Hello”. Here John Williams delivers his finest vocal on the album, and Out Of Darkness diverges again without losing its identity. 

The dynamic of European nuances returns gracefully on “Never Want to Be Without You”, with an added atmosphere created by Amber Prothero. An added guitar line comes across mid chorus to add a subtle  menace to proceedings, breaking the rapture Amber provides with her addictive vocal chords. Towards the end, there is little sign of the intense pleasure subsiding, one of the strongest tracks “Nothing” comes out of nowhere. It is something from perhaps the 90s, Brit-Pop era, but it is an exceptional statement, and a highlight of the songwriting and structures that John Williams creates. This leads into “Don’t Give Up on Me” with Claudia Brücken returning again, and injecting a further dash of European sweetness to bring Out Of Darkness to a close. 

Truthfully, there is little to complain about here if anything. For fans of melodic, fresh music then this is a go-to release. For a debut album it is so fully-formed that it rewrites our expectations of new artists. Then again, John Owen Williams has paid his dues in the music industry already, and luckily has handed us a stunning piece of work to enjoy. 

1.Loud and Clear
2.New Flag (With Petula Clark)
3.Luminescent (With Claudia Brücken)
4.Close to You
5.You’re on My Mind (With Isabella Coulstock)
6.Spanish Song (With Isabella Coulstock and Slicko Dicaprio)
7.You Got Me from Hello
8.Never Want to Be Without You (With Amber Prothero)
10.Don’t Give Up on Me (With Claudia Brücken)

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