Fionn Regan’s fourth studio album is a surprising anomaly. It’s surprising because a man and a guitar seems like the most natural thing in music, and yet ‘Bunkhouse Vol. 1: Anchor Black Tattoo’ comes across as something subversive in this era where big sounds make a big artist.
The album is very short. It feels almost like an EP in that when you’re done listening to it you’re left wanting more. More albums in this style will eventually make that little critique obsolete assuming the “Vol. 1” is more than just a stylistic thing. The intimacy captured on the album is gripping, and further volumes in this style would be welcome.
The only small thing about the album is its production. Lyrically the album is quite dense, and the more you listen to it the more the songs reveal themselves. 67 Blackout is a progression of barely linked images and comments that feel like being directed down a stream of memories. The Bunkhouse is something of an explanation for the album, a hideout from a world of storms and death and greed. Many of the songs defy summing up like this.
Mizen to Malin is a particularly effective song, outlining a scene of quiet dread on the coast in which things beyond our control and understanding are taking place. It is a representation of Ireland’s current economic condition, but the dire and relentless subject is tackled with an uncommon poetical tact. The music does just enough to induce a certain mood for which the lyrics then draw up the imagery.
Regan comes across on the album as a solitary painter, carrying his easel and brushes to the top of some mountain where he surveys the scene in every direction, sees everything with an eagle’s eye for detail and paints it. And these are paintings, not pencil-sketches, but full-colour landscapes that lack nothing for the humble way in which they are produced. Neither is this abstract art. It is something simple and accessible, the feeling of the earth under your bare feet after spending years walking on concrete footpaths and across linoleum floors.
In this way it advocates a simpler method of album-making. The brevity of the songs reveals a kind of trade secret about how often songs are pumped full of strings and synths like they were steroids to make them bulkier than they’re supposed to be, making songs so loud and obnoxious that you have to pay attention to them. It would be interesting to see how many artists today could strip their songs down to their most basic elements like this and make an album of such quality.