It’s raining so I’m going to clear out my email inbox. With Marques Toliver’s debut album for company, I embark on a dull and momentous task. Toliver is not the ideal accompaniment, however, for several reasons:
1. I’m very sure that, while I discard Argos promotions and RSPB updates and worrying library fine reminders, Renaissance man Toliver’s emails are always brimming with exciting things. These include, but are not limited to: playing the strings parts for Grizzly Bear’s ‘Veckatimest’ album, starring in Bat For Lashes’ “Laura” video, modeling for All Saints, launching his own aesthetics magazine – ‘Love Is The Law’, playing on Later With Jools Holland (without so much as an EP released), being proclaimed Adele’s ‘new favourite artist’, being a virtuoso violinist and an incredible vocalist. And he’s just made an album that sounds a lot like Beyonce circa “Love On Top”.
2. Toliver got discovered several years ago busking in New York with his violin. ‘Land of CanAan’ makes every draw of the bow sound so effortless, it’s fluid and it flurries, everything is so casually orchestral, that I’m starting to believe I could pull out that violin I have under my bed somewhere, shake off the primary school dust and string myself up to the stars.
3. This is just not music to do administrative tasks to. This is an album for secretly falling in love, for craving, for dreaming about someone. And playing air violin.
Land of CanAan is like swirling round the head of someone sitting, waiting, wondering if the other person will call, will ever knock again. They’re dream-like, perfect in their own absence. The violins and pianos cascade, like worries and fancies. In “Weatherman” the saxophone wails. In “Stay”, nervous strings play out what he can’t say – ‘there’s a possibility that you’re the one/Destiny told me to never give up on love’. In “If Only” they build like his hopes but they always fall eventually. By the last track, “Find Your Way Back Home”, he is still waiting – ‘I know love was here, love was so near’.
On record, Toliver’s talents shine less than in the solo performances that first gained him attention, but this here is a very different creature. Opener “CanAan” refers to the slaves’ song – ‘I am bound to the land of CanAan’. He is bound. This album is binding. It’s so fluent in its movement, like molten yearning, its hard to find a place to stop listening.By Alice Lawrence