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C Duncan – “The Midnight Sun” Review

Audio dreamscape of the year
C Duncan
C Duncan

Last years Mercury Prize nominated album Architect was a sleeper hit for C Duncan. His soft wispy vocals and mixtures of guitars and synths really drew me in and required multiple listens to appreciate the depth and beauty of it. I was slightly worried that the following year sparked a new album but I shouldn’t have worried a jot. “The Midnight Sun” is a more subdued and introspective ambient pop rock follow-up with plenty to bathe in.

C Duncan has moved towards more synths with this album and the complexities they give are subtle and poignant. Opener “Nothing More” showcases most of the album in a track with clever nods to electronica hiding away in the background of vocal meshes and soft spacey keyboards. Guitars are absolutely there throughout the album but this feels very much like an early hours album where you can hide away in the layers of melodies. “Like You Do” has more akin to a floating SOHN that rock music but the rhythms and power behind the collective voice of loads of instruments pushing towards something without screaming it is quietly moving.

“Other Side” and “Wanted To Wanted It Too” begin a slow move closer to the previous album with more drama and beats. A signature of the album is a mild clashing of minor chords that give off a distinct sci-fi noir feel and as the album is a mood piece it works perfectly. In many ways its choral washes and arpeggio riffs feel more like an indie film soundtrack and a palette to place imagery to.  It’s not until “Who Lost” when the guitars really come into the fore and even then they are melodic and revolving around the piano and keyboards. Add to that lush spacious choral synths of “On Course” that showcase C Duncan’s vocal abilities to go way up high and you have a perfectly beautiful opening half of the album. Lyrically the album points towards relationship loss but it’s often lost in the ambience of the sound itself. His voice feels more like a guided meditation than having actual words and “Last to Leave” is one of the best examples of this. You’ll hum the tune but have little clue as to what’s being said unless you really strain for it. For me it doesn’t matter because I’ve picked up the words and it’s such a luscious soundscape but this may dampen others spirits.

“Do I Hear?” floats back to the whimsy rock of his debut with lovely sweet guitar melodies and interesting chord structures. It could feel so cheesy in other people’s hands but C Duncan manages to make dream rock sincere and pillowy. Title track “The Midnight Sun” manages to straddle the two sounds of the albums and may be a great place to start if you’d like to know all things C Duncan related. The album closes with ambient pop number “Jupiter” which embraces is sci-fi otherworldly textures with cute flourishes throughout and the elegantly regal “Window” which slowly skips itself home.

Ambient pop rock is a funny thing because the album works so beautifully as a whole. When you listen to specific tracks, they are excellent, but as an album it flows perfectly and seems to stand even taller. It’s a different sound to the debut but it has the same level of class and sincerity. I wholeheartedly approve and recommend this to anyone wanting to discover new talent wise beyond their years.

Recommended Track : Wanted To Want It To

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