Daudi Matsiko knows how to conjure emotion out of silence. The British-Ugandan singer-songwriter can fingerpick with the folk deftness of Nick Drake but he rarely places it centre stage. His words, which frequently address his mental health struggles, are instead the main focus on his debut album.
Tracks usually start and end with his whispered vocals, the instrumentation a backdrop for his observations. On ‘Falling’ his vulnerable assertion that “I don’t want to be alone,” is mocked by barely-there guitar, his aloneness almost painful to hear in the instrument’s slow strum.
It’s a spiritual isolation he’s willing to break with equally devastating effect. He draws on his community of musician friends – including Divorce’s Felix Mackenzie-Barrow and GoGo Penguin’s Nick Blacka – to add fragile cello, saxophone and backing vocals on several tracks.
The bridge between isolation and community is album highlight ‘Hymn’. Opening with minimal backing, it slowly adds a shadowy female vocal, finger clicks and finally a mini gospel choir that offers salvation to his enquiry, “Am I too broken to believe / there’s any hope inside of me?”
The album answers a definitive no, the ten tracks offering hope to his listeners and – if there’s any justice – to himself.