Fink, Distance and Time

Garry Mullholland

By Garry Mullholland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

As well as a prodigious talent in his own right, Finian Greenhall is an all-singing, all-songwriting tribute to the loyalty and patience of DJ duo Coldcut's Ninja Tune label. They originally signed Fink in the mid '90s as a trip-hop artist, after the Bristol guitarist's recording debut as part of the techno duo EVA. The label has stuck with him despite his restlessness and eclecticism — Greenhall had early stints in jazz-funk and indie bands, and moonlights as a radio DJ playing cutting-edge post-punk-influenced dance music. Last year, Fink arrived at another incarnation — as a stark, hushed folky singer-songwriter in the John Martyn/José González mould.

Dark, autumnal songs of everyday loss, longing and regret.

Fink's second album as an acoustic troubadour is a major leap on from 2006's Biscuits for Breakfast. In producer Andy Barlow, who has had his own history of exploring the links between dance music and folk as part of artful drum and bass duo Lamb, Fink has found the perfect sonic collaborator. The pair inject a subtle but crucial rhythmic pulse into these dark, autumnal songs of everyday loss, longing and regret. Although the melancholy minor chords and dextrous acoustic strums evoke a long line of bedsit depressives in the Leonard Cohen tradition, it's the less predictable influences that make Fink's work unique: the cheeky steal of Prince's "Sign o'the Times" that buoys the angry, droning "Get Your Share"; the deft reggae rhythm that underpins the heartbreaking "Blueberry Pancakes"; the elements of Thom Yorke and Morrissey that occasionally nibble at the edges of Fink's warm, accomplished croon. The songs evoke a very English mise en scène of lonely lovelorn men in cheap cafés and pubs, hugging their warm beers and watching the leaves fall upon the grey street outside.

Single "This Is the Thing" sums up the themes of Distance and Time, as Fink leaves his lover, confessing "I don't know if you even notice at all" while the deep blue music swells gently into a quiet storm. If you appreciate the aesthetic of the current wave of adult-orientated singer-songwriters, but find the textures too bland and the lyrics too vague, then Distance and Time might just be the album for you.