There is no doubting that Fran O’Hanlon a.k.a Ajimal is a gifted and powerful story teller, if for any reason you weren’t previously aware of this then his debut album ‘Childhood’, a graceful piece of musicianship, shall have no hard time convincing you so. Recorded in collaboration with friend Mick Ross, Childhood may gain some of its poetic movement from being recorded in various Churches, Theatres and Hospitals around the North East; each setting surely holding it’s own story just waiting to be blended into the essence of Childhood with every creaking floorboard.
Exploring as the title suggests the theme of childhood, the opening track ‘Footnote to Love [Part One]’ bursts dramatically into the world with the excitement of a newly born child. Rumbling, muted guitars drive the song throughout, all the while Ajimal’s exults are brought soring by an airy orchestral sweep. The beauty of the lyricism -which must be noted throughout the entirety of the album captures so perfectly the event of a child being thrust into the world. Unplanned perhaps but completely adored and essential, “You were born an equation of fate/of your tiny heartbeat”. ‘Footnote to Love[Part Two]’ moves the album into a more delicate place, with echoing staccato piano mimicking the pitter patter of tiny feet, the gravity of a new life is captured here quite perfectly.
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‘Apathy/Apatheia’ moves further into the theme of childhood explored from the perspective of an adult: “one day we must get older and beg to be loved until we keel over”. The sheer beauty of the layers of horn and string sections on this track gives it a gravitas of sound that elevates this reflection upon childhood to a rose tinted tower. Nostalgia such as this appears to be the blood line of Ajimal’s work here, transforming from the delicate child into the pensive adult he has become. Shedding innocence for shell in ‘Nothing Touches Me’. Long drawn out chords hold onto the pensive atmosphere only to be obliterated by a the crashing symbols and crescendo of confidence, “I am invincible/surely unbreakable”.
With collaborations from over 50 musicians making up Childhood it is an impressive and thought provoking piece of work, which soars and lifts the listener with beauty and grace. Ajimal’s vocal is smooth and comforting and his harmonies with female vocalist on ‘Goudougoudou’ are simply impossible not to get lost in. Childhood seems to perfectly capture the human condition, which leaps from its beginnings to end, constantly walking a tight rope between confidence and disbelief, “The ground shakes, like I do”.
The spaces of silence and allowance for contemplation on this album is impressive and something which I feel will translate into breath-taking live performances. Get ready to not hear a pin drop when Ajimal takes to a stage in the future.