Nine years isn’t so long to wait really, not when you consider the 35 year gap between Vashti Bunyan’s 1970 debut Just Another Diamond Day and its eventual follow-up, 2005’s Lookaftering. The reasons for that remarkable delay are well documented. If you don’t already know, the brief version is that Vashti was so disillusioned with the music business that she moved to Scotland and concentrated on raising a family, deliberately cutting herself off from her previous career until she was encouraged back to make another record by the enthusiasm and fandom of the likes of Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective, and Glen Johnson of Piano Magic.
Heartleap is very much a Vashti Bunyan solo record, and apart from a brief guest vocal from Devendra Banhart on ‘Holy Smoke’, the other musicians that contribute, such as Gareth Dickson and Jo Mango, are mostly the people that have formed her live band over the years. On three songs (‘The Boy’, ‘Blue Shed’ and the title track) Vashti does everything, and on ‘The Boy’ in particular her multi-tracking skills make her sound like the world’s quietest guitar ensemble.
The meticulous nature of the recording, with Vashti recording and editing at home, piecing together the arrangements from her one-fingered piano playing and simple guitar parts, meant that these ten songs would be the best part of seven years in the making.
There is something warm and comforting about Heartleap. From a technical point of view, recording on her own and at her own pace meant that Vashti could sing when she felt comfortable, uninhibited by the restrictions of a more formal studio.
The lyrics focus a lot on family life and the fine details within those relationships. Some songs are snapshots of family life, albeit ones from the past, recreated in a subtle, minimal way. ‘Blue Shed’ is appropriately solo, given that it is about escaping your family, yet also about the loneliness when they have gone.