Shunya

Mountain Gazer
Bandcamp Release

Mountain Gazer is a feast of an EP which deftly mixes electronica with classical instruments. Alan Keary, aka Shunya, has collaborated with the vocalist Hayley Williams to create songs which are unique, refreshing and irresistible.

It all opens with an evocative journey. ‘Seconds Away/Miles Apart’ is a breathtaking mix of folky violin and electronica. Interweaving strings of violin and light guitar contrast with deep synths and discordance. Layers of soft, gentle vocals give this song an ethereal touch. One minute you're in a deep, dark valley, the next minute you're on top of a mountain with the sun breaking through the clouds.

Richly layered and textured, the EP’s strength is jam packing a wide variety of sounds. Take ‘Wonder and Wane’, a sumptuous ode to nature that’s moreish and uplifting. Williams' beautifully scratchy voice is framed by a marching beat, plucked strings, percussion and deep synths. Messed up violin and industrial noises are offset by a happy melody and bright, gentle guitar. It’s a well-placed contrast with the hard-hitting lament of the destruction of nature, ‘Nest of Glorious Sounds’, whose neo-soul vibe and shuffling beat, soft keys and powerful chorus finds meaning in its thoughtful lyrics, delivered stunningly by Williams.

The perils of romance are told through the eyes of a robot in the final track, ‘Analogue Heart’, which underneath its robotic imagery is a quirky look at love and risk. The choppy beat, wonky analogue synths and cutup vocals all add to the mechanic effect.

Mountain Gazer is an intricate tapestry of sounds that can't help but transfix you.

Anna Tuck

Dutch Uncles

BIG BALLOON
Memphis Industries

Hummingbirds are bloody difficult to photograph. It’s nigh impossible to catch a glimpse of what the wings of the birds look like because they’re constantly flapping at unfathomable speed. You just end up with a picture of a blur. It’s similarly difficult to put a pin in Dutch Uncles. On past efforts and on this, their fifth album, they refuse to stay still.

It’s not as self-consciously cerebral or formalistic as math pop, nor as formulaically indebted to Gang of Four as is much art rock, but Big Balloon nonetheless gets a significant amount of its forward momentum from Andy Proudfoot hammering his drums on the offbeat, Pete Broadhead’s jangling guitar chords and keyboard lines characteristic of those subgenres.

“I get so excited / ‘Til I can’t talk about it,” frontman Duncan Wallis sings, as if by way of explanation, in a similarly nervous blue-eyed soul voice to Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip or Field Music’s Brewis brothers. ‘Same Plain Dream’ and ‘Combo Box’ here particularly recall the Mackem twosome thanks to a metallic bassline from Robin Richards.

The rest of the record rockets along with enough energy to force the rhythm of your own pulse to match it, but some of the most exhilarating moments come when you do manage to snatch a moment of stillness. Wallis’s voice unaccompanied returns on ‘Baskin’, before a juddering van de Graaf of electronic buzz, while the baroque strings of ‘Achameleon’ resemble the later, studio-bound records of XTC.

Tom Baker