September 24, 2023

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit wary of this because frankly I’ve been disappointed by The Pineapple Tree’s last couple of releases – but I have to say this is altogether different, and totally lovely! Bruce Soord is the multi-instrumental, producer and general ‘mastermind’ behind The Pineapple Tree, but he’s also released some solo work of which Luminescence is the third album. Bruce is even going out and promoting it via a very rare European solo tour in Europe and the UK this month.

Inspired by the idea of finding inner peace, Luminescence explores the difficulty of living in the metropolis of the modern world. Born from days exploring various cities whilst on tour, tracks from the album feature recordings from Bruce’s various wanderings captured on his field recorder.

The album is released as a limited edition deluxe 3-disc hardback book version that contains two CD’s and a DVD. The second disc will contain an entire bonus album ‘Our Ship Sails At Dusk’, featuring material that was from the writing sessions over the period of Luminescence and DVD will feature a 5.1 Surround mix of ‘Luminescence’.  Bruce explains: “I’d been writing for my solo album on and off since 2021. By the end of 2022, I took stock, finding myself with an album’s worth of loosely connected songs. I spent some time away from the studio, to focus my mind on what I was trying to say, I guess getting myself into a more specific emotional space from which to write. All of a sudden I hit this purple patch. Every time I picked up my acoustic everything seemed to work and the words started to flow. It’s something, as a songwriter, you wish happened every day! Before long, I had finished the main record and found myself with enough material for an extra album. “Our Ship Sails at Dusk” still follows the same broad narrative as the main disc, so it’s a true companion.” 

With acoustic guitar at the centre of the Luminescence album, many of the tracks seem deceptively simple on first listen, but they still reveal Soord’s unmistakable intricacies – in a way that I thought he’d misplaced on TPT’s 2021 opus Versions of the Truth.

Recorded between January 2021 and June of 2023, the album was cut at Soord Studios with additional strings recorded at RAK Studio 3 in London, featuring contributions from Andrew Skeet, long time member of The Divine Comedy and musical producer of the orchestration on many films/tv shows from Netflix’s smash hit Black Mirror to David Attenborough’s Green Planet and Dynasties II. 

There’s a variety of styles within though. The album opens with the first single Dear Life, it effortlessly encapsulates Soord’s unique sense of poised melancholy balanced with a mood of elegiac calm (see the video below), it’s an uncomplicated track that nevertheless is aurally satisfying! Lie Flat, which follows, is even more sparse, but still hits the spot. Olomouc is next, with rousing strings that work well against the simple acoustic backdrop of Soord’s guitar to paint a vivid picture of the stillness and calm that the record describes.

So Simple lives up to its name, a brief slice of tranquility that reminds me strongly of the immortal Nick Drake. Bruce’s vocals are different from ND but I would suggest that the two songwriters hold similar sentiments dear…..

The arrangement of Never Ending Light again excels in simplicity, an echoing bassline and little touches of what sound like cello giving a richness that’s wonderful. Day of all Days hits new heights of atmospheric sparseness, it made me think of Dido’s wonderful first album?

Nestle In then flirts with electronica, what sounds like a New York siren introducing a gently bubbling number. And I can’t imagine Bruce being remotely comfortable in somewhere like NYC!

Instant Flash of Light brings us back to luscious “second album” Nick Drake territory – and there’s no higher accolade….Rushing then seems like another reflection on Urban madness, an instrumental that plays with sound beautifully intercut with what could either the wind or a tube train. Suffice to say it’s cleverly, addictively, atmospheric…

…and it morphs gently into Stranded Here, its a clever device at several levels. This is a sort-of straight-forward ballad, maybe with a touch of Ray Davies, Bruce’s voice floating above soft strumming, a background bassline, lush but subdued strings providing depth. Again, deceptively simple but gloriously addictive!

And again, the end of the last song intriguingly overlaps with the next, Read to Me being simultaneously different and an extension of its predecessor. I love the delicacy with which this is done.

Find Peace is such a fitting title for the last track in this song-set. It conjures links to acoustic/pastoral Pink Floyd, more mid-period Nick Drake, more gently reflective Dido – and I think “pastoral” is the key word here, Bruce being another musician whose apparent love of a bucolic and vanishing Albion is never far from the surface (that’s how I interpret this, anyway!). It actually comes to a surprisingly abrupt end, when you might be expecting strings gradually fading into the sunset.

All in all, this album is a delightful surprise for me in the way “less is more”, the production and mix here is spot-on, Bruce succeeds admirably in illustrating his search for calm (inner and outer?), and evoking a mood of tranquillity and peace. He is perhaps the epitomy of the “grown-up” modern English singer-songwriter?

Luminescence Tour Dates:
29.9 Helmond NL – De Cacao Fabriek
30.9 Paris FR – Cafe de la Danse
2.10 Madrid ES – Moby Dick
3.10 Barcelona ES – Wolf
5.10 Bologna IT – Locomotiv Club
6.10 Milan IT – Arci Bellezza
8.10 Rome IT – Auditorium Parco della Musica
11.10 Aschaffenburg DE – Colos Saal
12:10 Cologne DE – Club Volta
14.10 London GB – Nell’s