After the release of his debut album The Fire Inside, comparisons with Bon Iver have seemed to follow Luke Sital-Singh pretty much wherever he goes. The fact that he retreated to a remote studio in Donegal to record his sophomore album just seemed to heighten some of the similarities between the pair, calling to mind Justin Vernon's similar seclusion to write For Emma, Forever Ago in his father's hunting cabin. But just as Bon Iver have moved away from intimate folk musings, Sital-Singh seems equally determined to throw off those shackles and produce a record that's wholly, undeniably his own.
"For better or worse, I put everything of myself into this album," he says of Time Is A Riddle. As Sital-Singh suggests, this is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand he's retained his intricate guitar melodies, but on the other he's maintained his well-intentioned but often slightly-less-than poetic musings. "It's killing me that you're not here with me/ I'm living happily but I'm feeling guilty" he pines on Killing Time, while on opener Still he laments "Time is running year on year/ River ever-running but I'm still standing here." It's not exactly Keats or Shelley, but luckily he just about manages to sell the general sentiment of impending doom in the face of Father Time with his sincere, occasionally angst-ridden vocals.
Where Sital-Singh has really flourished is in the expansiveness of his music. Building on his intricate folk, Time Is A Riddle experiments with muscular instrumentation, whether it’s the dusty percussion and piano on Innocence or closer Slow Down’s cacophony of swelling organ and drums that make for a thunderous climax. With its slightly scuzzy guitars and lush harmonies, Rough Diamond Falls is an attention-grabbing blend of blues and gospel. It’s something of a shame that many of the tracks are just a bit too mid-paced and become slightly wearing after a while. Despite some frustrations though, Time Is A Riddle is still a much bolder insight into Sital-Singh’s world.
Listen to: Rough Diamond Falls, Slow Down