Revolutionary Patience: An Interview With Vashti Bunyan

[A child of the expiring ’60s, I’ve always been pulled to its epochal artists, especially those who have secrets left to keep. This is why I finally caught up with folk’s once-reclusive Vashti Bunyan, who is seizing the new century and it’s technology. We communed for Salon.]

Vashti Bunyan’s latest effort, “Heartleap,” feels like a work of revolutionary patience, although she’s the first to admit she’s not quite patient. It unfurls quietly, naked and soulful, toying with listeners’ expectations of dynamics and volume but never quite fulfilling them. The Edinburgh-based Bunyan‘s last full-length, “Lookaftering,” arrived in 2005, after the reclusive folk artist’s forgotten 1970 debut “Just Another Diamond Day” was rediscovered by a new century of jaded postmodernists looking for something wonderful they might have forgotten.

Bunyan — who began her career in the ’60s as a protégé of Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, before abandoning the scene for three decades of more fulfilling pastoral domesticity — channeled into “Lookaftering” the unexpected affection and participation of more famous new adopters like Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart. But “Heartleap” is wholly her own creation: empowered by the democratizing Internet, recorded with guitars and electronics at home, on a Mac using studio software any noob can master.

In a globally warmed era of white noise far from the optimistic philosophy of The Beatles’ epochal “All You Need Is Love,” both Bunyan and her familial “Heartleap” are practically defiant statements of slow living. “I feel overwhelmed by the complexities we face, the powerlessness it seems that so many of us express,” Bunyan told Salon. “And the difficulty in deciding which battles to fight the hardest.”

Bunyan’s long journey and hushed paeans to family and motherhood, the lives we all lead when the trappings of postmodernity fall uselessly away, the resilient but injured planet where we decide to live them: these are existential lessons wrapped up in three measured sonic chapters. And while she has hinted that they may have no epilogue, it seems reasonable to assume that an artist who stayed away from us for so long may ultimately be unable to resist returning to haunt our frenetic century, no matter how hard she tries.