“We really wanted to do a Tunng record going back to the original line-up,” founder member Mike Lindsay has said about Songs You Make At Night. “There was a real magic in the early records that we all wanted to capture again in this one.” Lindsay is right. There was a magic about early Tunng, a group who spearheaded the (albeit small) wave of folktronica artists that infiltrated the musical landscape back in the mid-00s. In particular, their 2005 debut Mothers Daughter and Other Tales, and the 2006 follow-up Comments of the Inner Chorus, with songs such as ‘Tale From Black’, ‘Woodcat’, and ‘Jenny Again’ depicting a noirish and surrealistic world, amplified by an otherworldly mix of glitchy electronica, and natural acoustic timbres. While a largely underground phenomenon at the time, the idea of incorporating acoustic instrumentation with dance/electronic rhythms and beats has became normalised in 2018, whilst still remaining somewhat of a leftfield pursuit, with acts such as Seamus Fogarty flying the flag, alongside a resurgent Tunng.
With Tunng slowly dying a death (2014’s Turbines was the barely registered last effort), earlier this year Mike Lindsay formed a musical partnership with Laura Marling, in the form of LUMP. With the heightened media presence acting as a tailwind, he and original Tunng partner Sam Genders have been working together for the first time since 2007’s Good Arrows, their magical musical and lyrical interplay between dark and light a re-ignited feature that is amply captured here.
While this is a decidedly Tunng-sounding album, Genders, Lindsay and other long-term Tunng personnel, such as singer Becky Jacobs, bring an unexpected freshness into proceedings. This is done with the judicious use of samples, mostly crackly, and spoken word, combined with a brilliantly arranged and produced musicality, from two expert studio bods.
Themes of sleepwalking, youthful innocence, and dream-filled optimism, are intertwined into some kind of modern fairytale storytelling, beginning with The Orb-esque ambient house vibes of ‘Dream In’. “It’s the strangest world we live in, and though we feel like giving in, it’s a beautiful dream“, Lindsay sings, and in a poetic nutshell, encapsulates the album’s narrative; that our dreams, whether they are shaded light or dark, help keep us going, the brutal realism of our lives necessarily dampened by our extravagant dreams, and yearning for love and companionship.
At the other end of the album, there’s the equally beautiful production and sampled watery sounds of ‘Like Water’, finger-picked guitar leading Jacobs and then Lindsay’s eerie vocals, that with devastating simplicity talk of our need for each other, much like we absolutely need water: “In my breath, and in my veins, and in my bones, and hands and teeth, and in my skin, and in my skull, and in my sky, like water“.
In between there’s the bass-heavy modern electronica of ‘Abop’, tempered by fluid harp and a sample of 70s porn actress Mary Millington. There’s also the west coast pastoral guitar of ‘Crow’, the Hot Chip-inspired dance-pop of ‘Dark Heart’, the burbling synth-meets-snaking acoustica and glitch-ridden ‘Flatland’, and the child like nursery melody of ‘Evaporate’. It all adds up to a rare intimacy and warmth, where enveloping textures meet inventive rhythms, skipping beats, electronic textures and infectious melodies. Songs You Make At Night is, despite the gently dark overtones throughout, a wonderfully immersive and relaxing album. And, yes, it’s magical.