Auckland singer-songwriter Simon Comber has been quietly releasing material (2 albums and an EP) under his own name since 2005. In 2013 he decided on a new approach and a new recording name – Heriot Row – named after the street in Dunedin he lived on while a student, and ‘Lesser Stars’ is the product of this new approach.
The sound of Heriot Row isn’t light years away from his earlier material, but a more considered, and delicate touch is present – not calculated, but meticulous in detail.
There are few rhythmic pop tracks on ‘Lesser Stars,’ (with the exception of the cute, catchy, and shuffling Beautiful and Harmless) but this enhances the meditative nature of the songs. Predominantly based on acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment, ‘Lesser Stars’ often draws on literature for inspiration: Neon Lights adapts a Robyn Hyde poem, while The Beggar, a sparse, electric-guitar-and-vocal ballad follows poet R.A.K. Mason’s ghost out to Auckland’s Queens Wharf.
Elemental aspects creep in too: Let it Blow, with the echo surrounding the vocal and acoustic guitar, is a slice of intimate domestic reminiscence that pulls on the power of memory.
While John Vanderslice’s production is not sparse, it gives the instruments and Comber’s voice, space, place, and warmth, a by-product of being recorded at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco, and mastered at Chicago Mastering Service.
‘Lesser Stars’ blooms with Comber’s beautiful songs, and the skilful performances of all involved, and is a reminder of how the album is often a beautiful artistic expression.