A star chart and blood spatter superimposed over a face profile, landscape and a washed out sky – the colourful cover of Blair Jollands’ new album hints at the shape of the music to come.
‘7 Blood’ is Jollands’ second album under his own name, produced and recorded across London where he lives, Spain which provides the title, and Aotearoa, his birthplace. With a voice that’s been likened before to Scott Walker and Rufus Wainwright, Jollands is a confident and accomplished recording and live artist.
An array of orchestral instruments (Jollands himself provides vox, guitar, sitar, trumpet and harmonica) and animated backing vocals appear throughout this diverse collection of songs, contributing to a theatrical, almost cabaret sense.
African-inspired drumming and a disco influence combine in the pulsing opener ‘7 Blood’, with horns and (light) shrieks coming in over the top – a real groove.
Within the next tracks excitation changes to wistfulness and dissatisfaction, though the energy and engagement stay up. The songs jump from setting to setting – part of the ‘7 Blood’ charm is not knowing what to expect next.
The harmonica flitting over Jolland’s drawl changes the early Latin feel of Not Enough to bring into focus a classically tension-laden Western soundtrack. Drifting Song opens with tinny recorded laughter then swells with violin and falsetto, and sing-along Mojacar Moon features Spanish language, more mariachi-flavoured trumpet flourishes and maracas.
This record was apparently inspired by Jollands’ experience with tick-borne Lyme disease, and takes its name from an Andalucian mountain herb he used as remedy.
His voice is rougher, worn next to the instrumentation, allowing the tracks to go to grimmer and stranger places, as in the eerie Burning Man. Production credits mostly look to belong with Jollands and there is a feast of flavours and instrument layers here that maintain listener engagement. Most importantly, the songs are quality. An eclectic and smart record. Like the cover, picturesque and different.