C Duncan – The Midnight Sun [FatCat]

The Midnight Sun is the second record from young Glaswegian songwriter and producer C Duncan.

Following on from the remarkable success of his bedroom-recorded and self-produced debut Architect, The Midnight Sun – named for an episode of the Twilight Zone – is a melodic slice of choral indie-psychedelia that drifts by like leaves on a stream.

 

There’s a charm to his cottage-industry approach and it certainly doesn’t seem to hinder his ability to craft lush melodies; layering up vocals into sumptuous soundscapes that are less wall of sound and more clear, reflective pools, shimmering and changing as you listen.

Once again Duncan takes charge of every aspect of the record from music and lyrics to its accompanying presentation.

The cover of his debut record was the streets around Glasgow’s Byres Road, this time he draws even further inwards surmounting his record with a portrait of his own front door.

You can sense the sounds and smells of the natural world in this music, even when Duncan himself only touches on them obliquely. It’s great music to soundtrack a retreat from the world.

In comparison to his debut, The Midnight Sun seems to have little concern for offering its listeners easy or even well-defined pathways.

It’s a gentle evolution from his debut; and one that sees textures dominate over straightforward songwriting, but when the soundscapes being constructed are this impressive and immersive, you’re instantly vindicated in diving in.

Lead single ‘Wanted to Want it Too’ uses repetitive synth and bass motifs to evoke a darker feel, more akin to Kraftwerk taking a rare forest walk, while closer ‘Window’ is the closest he gets to a true choral piece; subtly shifting piano chords laid beneath his most ambitious vocal theatrics.

Having studied classical composition at Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire, it’s no surprise that Duncan is a talented arranger; chord sequences are beautifully mapped out, perfectly weighted and blossoming like flowers, no matter whether they’re drawn from synthesizer, piano or the more sparely deployed acoustic guitar.

Nothing is as instantly hummable as the Fleet Foxes-like ‘I’ll Be Gone by Winter’, while the lightness of touch and the skill of the arrangements on the likes of ‘Last to Leave’ make The Midnight Sun a special treat.

A tour next year with masters of Manc melancholy Elbow will give Duncan a chance to take his three piece backing band out on the road, but until then The Midnight Sun is a mighty fine way to while away an hour.

Words: Max Sefton

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