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A Magazine for Sheffield

Arliston Even In The Shade

The London-based duo mesmerise with a heady mix of circumspection, melancholia and symbiotic sonics which is utterly enthralling.

Released: 4 November 2022
Even In The Shade

It's best for everyone concerned that we address the elephant in the room from the get-go. Jack Ratcliffe – lead vocalist of Brixton-based newcomers Arliston – evokes vocalist and songwriter Matt Berninger of American titans The National.

There. I said it. And do you know what? Who cares?

Because Ratcliffe's vocalisation and extraordinary lyrical dexterity, combined with an expressionism that drips liquid emotion and angst, is unique, adding exquisite layer on layer of gravitas to this superb five-song EP.

First, some salient information. Arliston – the aforementioned Ratcliffe and George Hasbury – hail originally from Aldgate, London and started sharing "a mutual love of miserable indie music" in 2018, before moving to south London to release this follow-up to lockdown EP The Ground Might Disappear.

Citing Bon Iver and Alt-J as influences, the duo have constructed a set of songs that explore the emotional juxtaposition of strength in fragility, cleverly unpacking vital signs of hope, all set within a shroud of melancholia that melds perfectly with beautifully symbiotic sonics.

First single 'Mothering' oozes quality, shining a light on the circumspect and thoughtfully restrained musicianship of interlocking pianos and guitars, all delicately stitched together by the mixing and mastering skills of Brett Shaw (Florence & The Machine, Foals) of 123 Studios.

"It's too easy nowadays to use all the toys on every song!" Hasbury
explains. "But with "Mothering" I think we've managed to get a real sense of groove and momentum into a small arrangement".

The clever phrasing of 'Hold My Wine' is the perfect counterpoint. The band themselves describe the song's theme as "that moment when you achieve a moment of recognition that everyone else has grown and developed whilst you've stayed the same. Plus, we like the silly middle-class pun on 'hold my beer.'"

Ben Folds-esqe piano is channelled to great effect on 'Sydenham Place', while 'Tombstone Teeth' combines a simple acoustic guitar melody with an evocative falsetto vocal.

The closer and real tour de force here is the exceptional 'TV Dinner', a song of masterful quality drawing on the oft-told story of an all-consuming love that just can't escape an all-subsuming emotional straight jacket.

Ratcliffe's emotive lyric expertly captures the mood: "On the north borders / Of a quiet moment / With your TV dinner tray / By a wide margin / You were safeguarding / Yourself from everything."

There are sonics to admire here too as, like skilled craftsmen, guitars, blips, squalls, scratches and drone washes are selected and integrated with surgical precision. It's a beautifully glorious yet dolorous slice of circumspection.

On this evidence, Arliston are at that happy developmental point as a band where they hold complete mastery over their lyrical and musical palette. It's just a question of what type of sonic stories they wish to tell, and how emotionally experimental they want to be. Utterly enthralling.

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