Forming somewhat of an underground Scottish super-group for the musical fauns of the underworld, Kathryn Joseph, James Graham and Marcus Mackay are Out Lines. Their collaborative album “Conflats” is a truly dark and brooding meld of their talents and is sure to be a sleeper hit beyond 2017 as it gets discovered.
Unabashedly cloaked in their heritage “Buried Guns” let’s James and Kathryn duel and duet their vocals over electro-indie anti anthems that sway like the undead. The reedy accordion like keyboards and the stuttering drums create a shuffling momentum that is like a long uphill climb of the weary. The sound is like your local folk band have already got smashed and decided to plug their instruments into the deep raw power of the Earth below. There’s a defiance, a yearning, a purity and a furious power to the sound and layers. This is only pushed further with “Our Beloved Dead” which is pacier, more tribal and with more direct hooks and chord sequences. Both voices bring distinct qualities. James has an already bitten and now shy vulnerability when he goes for it, where as Kathryn’s raw uncapped voice is as otherworldly as it is captivating. They aren’t voices you’d instinctively put together but they really work.
The album takes a turn towards Joseph’s more piano laden style for the utterly devastating “The Left Behind” which shows that she can flip from raging war to bringing you to tears in an instant and a flicker of her voice. The song itself feels like a bells toll and a death knell. “There Is a Saved Place” is a beautiful track that switches from a lost, lonely spoken monologue from James to siren cries in the chorus from Kathryn – all underpinned from taut and tense piano. The track feels like a tense coil on countdown to explosion and decimation – and the gargling guitars and bass really force that feeling home – and it only grows to its explosive climax.
“If You Love Me You Will Lie” is a short folk ditty which is drenched in the reedy accordion organ which the main staple instrument used throughout the album. It’s gives everything a distinctly Celtic but eerie feeling to every track. “Open Shut” branches a little more towards an electronic palette of instruments for what comes closest to a radio friendly piece before the cathartic ballad “These Three Desire Lines” closes out the album feeling like the end of a journey. Interestingly a conflat is a type of wagon and it utterly suits the whole albums sound and emotional pull. Each track feels like an overnight stay at a different camp fire, or how you feel at different parts of the journey. The closing track has a tinge of happy optimism in its slow motion approach and captures that finish line feeling.
Whilst it’s short at 30 minutes, Conflats is a superb album. All three show their charms throughout be it in production, instrumentation or vocals – and each song is a gem. If you want to take a punt on a random folk or alternative/indie album this year – go for this. It’ll be your Celtic little secret.
Recommended Track : There Is A Saved Place