Release Date: Oct 14, 2016
Record label: FatCat Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
The follow up to C Duncan’s Mercury Prize nominated debut sees the artist transform his pastoral folk into a sci-fi infused synth odyssey. The Midnight Sun, which takes its name from an episode of The Twilight Zone, finds the artist in a more confident mode. The layered production of his debut is pushed further here, with Duncan’s vocals taking on an elegiac, choral quality over soft arpeggiated synthesizers.
Watch any episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ and you’ll be sucked into an often surreal alternate world where things are never as they first seem. On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be the obvious starting point for C Duncan’s new album. His Mercury Prize-nominated debut ‘Architect’ was a light and airy number where classical met dreampop.
It’s an album that barely raises its head from its surreal slumber, but there’s not a second of its 43 minutes in which the soundscape created by C Duncan feels sluggish. The Glaswegian composer, multi-instrumentalist and graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland creates his artwork and produces his music in his own studio; an insular creative process that results in a contained universe of ambience and eerie euphoria. The follow-up to his Mercury-nominated album Architect is inspired by the lurching intensity of The Twilight Zone but also shares the melancholy indie atmospherics of Cocteau Twins, Stereolab, Broadcast and Air.
Second albums can be tricky to navigate at the best of times, let alone when you’re attempting to follow up a Mercury Prize-nominated debut. That’s the task facing C Duncan. The Scottish composer and musician was plucked from relative obscurity when his first LP, Architect, enchanted the judges in 2015. While it didn’t end up taking the top prize – which went to Benjamin Clementine – the recognition put him on the map.
2015 was a time of reckoning for C Duncan; his debut record Architect was swallowed by critical acclaim, headline tours and a Mercury Prize shortlist media frenzy. A year later, The Midnight Sun shows the Glaswegian musician hasn't lost any of his composure. Elegant and focused, the album was written, recorded and produced in the same bedroom as his first LP - with the same supersonic attention to detail.
Scottish composer C Duncan has a way with constructing elegiac sounds that eclipse whatever else surrounds them. The Mercury Prize nominee’s debut, fittingly titled Architect, teetered somewhere between verdant dream pop and enchanting ambient music. There was a flawless technicality to his compositions, with songs that cultivate creativity at every twist and turn.
The much anticipated sophomore long-player from the Glaswegian pop confectioner, Midnight Sun finds Christopher Duncan doubling down on the lush, homespun chamber pop of his Mercury Prize-nominated 2015 debut, but with significantly bolder strokes -- it may take a bit longer to sink in, but it rewards a patient ear and an open heart. The stuttered electronic hand claps that made up the bulk of Architect's rhythm section are gone, having been replaced by a more ornate, though no less mechanical arsenal of percussion. In fact, Midnight Sun is an unapologetically voltaic beast, with Duncan's impeccable, cathedral-like choral arrangements and major and minor 7th-heavy melodies drifting in and out of the charged ether like hungry fireflies on a muggy July evening.
When Glaswegian songwriter Chris Duncan released his debut LP Architect last year, it felt majestically unrushed. The spacious arrangements and multi-faceted melodies soaked up the spirit of Brian Wilson and speckled it across each of the record's dream pop masterpieces. It was a gorgeous slow burning gem. .
In the episode “The Midnight Sun”, from Rob Serling’s acclaimed 1960s thriller anthology-series The Twilight Zone, an artist and her landlady struggle with the inescapable rising temperature as a result of the Earth being thrown off its elliptical orbit. Warm, sunny landscapes — which are themselves melting — are all the artist can seem to paint as the all-encompassing heat posseses her. Suspense builds as the rising temperature pushes men to to madness, the threat of looting and worse ever-looming.
Despite the woeful spirit that surrounds most of our staff at the moment, which goes without saying, the past month was actually one of the most enjoyable in terms of music releases for Carl and I. But both of us were not going to back out of our duty to report on some albums that are really worth ….
C Duncan’s Union Chapel date last year was one of the most satisfying musical experiences of the past decade and, with no small degree of apprehension, I have been anticipating this release for months. This idol must not have feet of clay; this record must be good. C Duncan’s Mercury Prize-nominated first album, Architect burst onto the scene in July 2015 and was championed by BBC 6Music’s Lauren Laverne, the music world now sitting up, interest piqued by this very distinct new dreampop voice.