He Who Never - Left Record Label: None
Release Date: February 9, 2010
He Who Never is the solo project of 20-year-old Minnesotan Aaron Rosell. His debut EP Left is an interesting amalgamation of styles, drawing on his background as a jazz and classical drummer and combining those talents with pop sensibilities and a pension for moody, lengthy ballads. Throughout Left's five tracks different stylistic influences become apparent, but the end product is comfortably its own entity, albeit not a ground-breaking one.
Opener "Denuo, Pt. 2" is a fairly standard piano ballad set with vague lyrics that builds nicely to an outro highlighting Rosell's percussive origins, complemented by a cool effect created with what I believe are stick clicks. That same sound begins the second track, "Just Like", which brings to mind some of Radiohead's rhythmically-driven, softer songs. While this track also builds to a rousing finale laced with some fine drumming, the majority of the track seems to drag on with repetitive vocal lines that grow less and less appealing over the course of the song. "Calvary" also resembles a Radiohead b-side at times, and its extended length makes it a candidate for the most-easily-skipped song on Left, although it does contain a pretty piano interlude in its second half.
The definite highlight of the album is the third track, "Morning", which manages to succeed despite its familiar chord progressions and lyrics. The introduction instantly reminded me of Clint Mansell's music for The Fountain (I would be surprised if Rosell had not heard that soundtrack's closer, "Together We Will Live Forever"), and is beautifully accompanied by doubled vocals, and later an added female voice. The ebb and flow of "Morning" is mesmerizing, that effect only offset by a strange rhythmic change two-thirds of the way through. Once overcome, the change to the new section is welcome though, and the song yet again comes to an uplifting rhythmic close.
He Who Never's biography claims closer "Speak / 13" to be the emotional centerpiece of the album, a fitting title for a track that sums up the combined styles represented in the rest of the EP's songs. The opening portion of the song will remind listeners of Mae's rapturous piano serenades, and the rest gorgeously builds in line with the technique established in the previous songs, fading out on a snare-driven marching beat. The implied ongoing and unfinished outro to that song seems like a good metaphor for both the good and bad to be found on Left. Rosell is a clearly talented musician with a strong sense of dynamic tension and build and his composition is unrestrained, but at times his songs could use a little control and condensing to amplify and focus on their valuable parts. Still, Left is a mostly enjoyable EP that manages to sound full despite its limited instrumentation and will likely win you over during those moments when you need to relax and let music fill your thoughts.