London WC1 ULU

Our rating:

A dark surge of violin and cello swirls vertiginously around a tiny thread of acoustic guitar....

A dark surge of violin and cello swirls vertiginously around a tiny thread of acoustic guitar. Seconds into the opening of ‘Joe’s Ark’, it’s breath-catchingly clear that [a]Ben & Jason[/a], London boys with bruised hearts and impossibly high voices, have found Robert Kirby, the man who arranged the sumptuous strings to accompany Nick Drake‘s fragile croon.

Kirby is only present to sprinkle his sonic fairy-dust onto this mini-album’s first track, but Ben Parker and Jason Hazeley quickly prove that they need no further assistance in bolstering the fruits of their partnership. Deceptively simple, yet creepingly poignant, they weave a web of delicate, contemplative melancholy using filaments of dusty AM radio hits, snippets of Smog and Will Oldham, whispers of Radiohead. But the spectre that looms largest over ‘Hello’ is that of Jeff Buckley; and though Ben‘s voice can never quite replicate his soulful wail, Buckley‘s legacy is unmistakable in the disconsolate howl of ‘You-Shaped Hole’, the emotional vortex of ‘Thank You For Laughing’ and the sweeping lullaby of ‘Everybody Hold Hands With Everybody Else’.

Ben & Jason sound like they’ve spent their lives cloistered in dark bedrooms, so alone they’ve forgotten the art of conversation. Instead, they’ve created a luxuriously tuneful cushion of songs about imaginary friends and ice-cold lovers, which they hold up over their faces as they reach out to shake hands. A tantalising introduction.