Morose folkster Paul Bergmann’s second LP is, from the outset, typified by a sense of drowsiness. The title, Nothing at All, epitomises its reluctance to muster consistent levels of energy throughout. That’s not to say, however, that Nothing at All lacks good songwriting. Bergmann’s reverberating keyboard and bare acoustic guitar become something of a modus operandi, and in small doses, their ability to move between reticence and emotional malaise is striking. Particularly poignant is the album’s title track, which marries orchestral accompaniment with restrained vocal melodies, opening the record promisingly.
Bergmann strays from his formula at some points, but these departures are not always fully realized. This is particularly the case of the lyrics on the retro-inspired “Blue Light of Day” and “Coffee, Wine, Water, Tea”, which detract from what is otherwise strong writing. Ironically, the record’s most effective track, “Emma, from the Valleys of Her Heart” is able to remain accessible despite its eight-minute length and a sound that contrasts with Bergmann’s gloomy pub-singer efforts. This track also maintains the rawness for which Bergmann appears to strive across the record. The song leaves us wondering whether it may be a case of “less is more” in terms of overtly emotional songwriting. Nothing at All is a slow burn of a record, but it’s not without its charm.
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