A Darker Sunset
A Darker Sunset
Big Chill Recordings
3 July 2008
The Shock of Recognition
A Whole Day Nearer
Nothing More True
As She Fell
You Call My Name
Otama (Palm Skin Productions Remix)
A Whole Day Nearer (Nitin Sawhney Remix)
Nitin Sawhney Remix
Remixed at Spirit Dance Studios
Engineered by Dean James
Palm Skin Productions Remix
Remixed at Pacific Rim Studios
Mastered by Mandy Parnell at Electric Mastering
This third album from New Zealand-born British composer and former Durutti Column and Duke Quartet member, is a woozy wedding of classical, electronica and ambient. String arranger by rock royalty appointment (Morrissey, The Pretenders, Blur) Metcalfe released his first album in 2004 and the fact this album is released by The Big Chill gives a good indication of where its heart lies. It's a gloriously schizophrenic collection, one minute lazily teasing out notes amid floaty atmospherics (opener Echo Valley), then jack-knifing into a 60's spy thriller set piece, heavy on brass and scratching (A Whole Day Nearer, Undertow). We're seven tracks in, at Nothing More True, before vocals arrive, and even then it's as a looped breathy syllable refracting back on itself. We don't get actual lyrics until an A&R-worrying ten tracks in, on You Call My Name, whose skittering beat mirror downbeat drum'n'bass'n'chillout duo Lamb. A wonderful wrong-footing of a music business built on the selling of vocalists as personalities.
It seems that every man and his dog wants to be a film composer nowadays. Very few actually know what it takes, let alone have the understanding, poise and ability to create that kind of emotive resonant sound. String specialist and ex-Durutti Cloumn member John Metcalfe however is one such musician.
John Metcalfe made his name helping Vini Reilly to construct mesmerisingly ghostly guitar sculptures in the Durutti Column years ago, and has since established himself as one of the top string arrangers in Britain. His third album, though, owes at least as much to electronica as to classical.
One or two tracks engage in sub-Michael Nymanisms, but most of A Darker Sunset is that rare thing: ambient with an edge. Felt, Unseen deploys the repetition techniques of Steve Reich to create an awesomely lovely effect of twilight-after-rain, Parkstone is a dizzying trill of kaleidoscopic piano playing, and the stately beauty of The Shock of Recognition is only marred by an ill-advised synth line that wobbles along the track like a gaudy squiggle across a painting.
It would've been easy for a man of Metcalfe's gifts to go down the more lucrative road of soporific chillout. Instead, this is imaginative and impressive.
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