Having left their Doom Metal roots behind on 2016’s Wider Than The Sky (Radiance), 40 Watt Sun completely doubles down on slowcore with their third full-length album. In fact, Perfect Light (Svart/Cappio Records) might even be a little softer than its predecessor with nary a trace of fuzz or distortion to be found. It often feels more like a slow-motion singer/songwriter record, especially with the Jerry Cantrell-esque twang throughout. I suppose it’s only fitting when you consider that guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker is the only returning band member, having recruited an entirely different cast of musicians for this effort.
Although the musicianship remains focused on sparse minimalism, it makes for some of the band’s lushest textures to date. The guitar work provides plenty of color with simple strums and gentle picking while the restrained drumbeats provide just enough weight and momentum to keep from dragging out.
There are also splashes of piano throughout, and the occasional backing vocals are a very nice touch. The lead vocals are well executed on top of it all, sitting more upfront in the mix thanks to the even calmer setup while still relying on Walker’s tried and true held out delivery.
The songwriting is also still uniform with the songs riding exclusively crawling tempos mostly set apart by whether they aim for stripped down arrangements or full band contributions. This approach can risk monotony, especially if one isn’t in the right mood, but the project’s established penchant for pathos goes a long way. While the melodies are slowly delivered, they remain consistently coherent with perfect setup, payoff, and a human touch. The bookending ‘Reveal’ and ‘Closure’ manage to be tear-jerking without being melodramatic while ‘Until’ is one of the more compelling full band tracks, flowing smoothly into ‘Colours.’
As expected with 40 Watt Sun’s track record, Perfect Light ends up being another winning achievement. The prospect of the band sticking to a soft slowcore sound isn’t the least bit surprising, nor is the deeply emotional execution of it. This is the sort of album that hits hard when you’re in the right mindset for it but also offers plenty of enjoyable arrangements even if you’re not. Walker recruited a who’s who of guests including Andrew Prestidge and Roland Scriver (The Osiris Club), Ajit Gill (Vertaal), Lorraine Rath (Amber Asylum/Worm Ouroboros), and pianist/composer Chris Redman.
This is an album that spends a lot of time meditating on loss and sadness but also carries a certain lightness. Whether you prefer this approach or the crushing Doom of albums past, this is just another reminder that Patrick Walker remains one of the supreme crafters of the sadboi jam.
Buy the album here: https://40wattsunmusic.bandcamp.com/album/perfect-light
9 / 10