Bill Ryder-Jones used to be the lead guitarist in The Coral, but you won’t tell it from listening to this album. Away from the sweet and catchy British Invasion-styled melodicism, Ryder-Jones emerges as a deep and thoughtful composer with a handful of classical influences. If… is a serious sounding, heavily orchestrated affair full of pretty, moody piano lines and an occasional vocalized ballad.
First thing you notice is that If… sounds a lot like a soundtrack, which is hardly all that surprising considering that this mostly instrumental album is a musical adaptation of Italo Calvino’s postmodernist masterwork If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler. The biggest influences here seem to be French composers like Claude Debussy and particularly Erik Satie. There’s a gorgeous, mysterious spirit of ‘Gnossiennes’ running through the haunting piano lines of tracks like ‘The Reader (Malbork)’. But Bill is not above more immediate pop music thrills. ‘Le Grand Disordre’, for instance, is a brittle, Elliott Smith-esque ballad that brings some timely diversity to the whole thing.
Otherwise, classical, atmospheric soundscapes abound. But however deep and thoughtful, there’s nothing difficult or excessively intellectual about this record. Deep down, If… is full of appealing melodic substance and, together with Nils Frahm’s Felt, might well be a suitable contender for the most beautiful album of the year.
Released on 14th November 2011 by Double Six Records