Fusing elements of electronica sublimely with an in-depth classical knowledge, C Duncan became a household name in the UK with his experimental gaze. Signed to Brighton’s Fat Cat Records he has, excitingly, announced a brand-new album and this time things are set to be different.
Forget any preconceived ideas of what a bedroom artist is – as C Duncan is the finest example. You could easily imagine that Architect‘s graceful and meticulous sound was recorded somewhere like Abbey Road or the Maida Vale Studios with a large team of top musicians at his disposal – which only makes it even more impressive that everything you can hear is performed by Christopher Duncan, and all recorded in his bedroom studio set-up in Glasgow.
There won’t be many people that have been more immersed in music whilst growing up than C Duncan – both his parents are classical musicians and he initially took up piano and viola before learning to play the guitar, bass and drums. Then he enrolled at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music to study music composition (where he had his pieces performed by various ensembles) – this is no doubt why Duncan comes across as the master architect of his debut album.
The gorgeously sublime opener, ‘Say’, gives the listener a warm welcome to what is to be expected from Duncan’s enchanting songwriting and assembling abilities. As the song ends and ‘Architect’ begins, you are introduced to Duncan’s fascination with electronic ideas, pastoral folk and classical aesthetics. His choral like vocal harmonies over the beautiful dream pop melodies are deliciously arranged and utterly bewitching. ‘Silence and Air’ is what St Peter has playing whilst everyone is queuing to see if they can enter heaven through the Pearly Gates – its ethereal sounding vocals and synths with the slightly unnerving feel of the percussion is compelling and stunning. The mix of traditional sounds and structure that’s designed with a strong mind for the contemporary furthermore showcases Duncan’s impeccable production expertise.
By the time ‘Garden’ starts, the listener has well and truly entered Duncan’s encompassing dream pop world. The lustrous groove of the almost krautrock beat signifies a change in pace in the album. The trippy sounds in the fanfare of the different instruments used exudes the ecstatic joy and excitement Duncan must have been feeling when he was composing this final track for the album. ‘Here to There’ has the unmistakeable feel of travelling – as well as the lyrics meaning, the repetitive guitar sounds and the post-punk esque drumming almost sounding like Duncan is depicting a train journey. The start to ‘By’ has a dark psychedelic quality due to the Hammond organ’s constant tone, but as soon as the chorus comes in and a middle eight starts, you realise Duncan has just put a unique twist on a pop song. ‘Novices’ could be a lost Nick Drake track – with its delicate guitar, soft strings and Duncan’s tender voice being a calming presence. The album finishes with the charming lullaby, ‘I’ll Be Gone By Winter’, which is typically dark lyrically and has alluring classical guitar – a perfect end to the album.
Another gem of a release on Brighton’s Fat Cat Record Label which no doubt will be in the running for debut, if not, album of the year. You could be mistaken that this album is from a different era, as it is so far away from today’s musical trend but at the same time sounds remarkably fresh. It is extraordinary the depth of Christopher Duncan’s talent (he is also an exhibiting painter and did all his own artwork), and not for one moment do I think he has peaked with this accomplished debut. In fact, I reckon we may have unearthed a modern day Burt Bacharach who could go on to become one of the UKs most revered artists.