But while his musical influences (Robert Wyatt, Van Morrison and Neil Young) remain the same, the distance between Watt and his 21-year-old self is clear in his words, which focus on memories, regret and the passing of time. You could say that lines like "The estate agent's been over / I've resurfaced the driveway" (on "The Levels") reveal just how middle-aged Watt is, but here selling a house represents the struggle to relinquish the past. Dave Gilmour's guest appearance offers more than just star power, too, given that he once sang "Hanging on in quiet desperation / Is the English way" on Pink Floyd's "Time"—the very state in which Hendra exists. The title track—a tribute to Watt's late sister—as well as "Forget" and "Matthew Arnold's Field" all spin stories of lives stained with sorrow. The guitars and analogue synths of collaborators Bernard Butler and Ewan Pearson have the same understated beauty as the images of the English countryside that crop up throughout.
Hendra is an always beautiful, sometimes stunning album, if one that bears no trace of its creator's knack for house music. If the album has any relationship to club culture at all, it's that it could be a great a comedown staple, like Beth Orton's Central Reservation, which Watt also produced. But Hendra is more than just a soundtrack to the morning after. "Spring," the album's one unabashedly optimistic track, invites us to "sweep the curtain open / push the window wide." It's one of many moments that makes this seem like a bright new dawn for Ben Watt.