C Duncan – Architect

Album Review by Aidan Ryan | 06 Jul 2015
Album title: Architect
Artist: C Duncan
Label: Fat Cat Records
Release date: 17 July 2015

"I’ll take you everywhere I go … I’ll take you everywhere I know," C Duncan sings on Here To There. By the time we get to this track, on the middle of his debut, he has already taken us far, through dreampop, vast choral harmonies, ethereal rock, and shimmering folk meditations, drawing on influences as disparate as Fleet Foxes and Mozart.

The track 'For' is particularly reminiscent of those Seattle harmonizers, but other associations range further afield – Here To There sounds a bit like When In Rome’s The Promise channeled through a boys’ choir chanting in the Aachen Dom, while He Believes in Miracles marries celestial bells and washboard guitars, lush indie-pop vibing on a bossa waltz; this segues into the standout track Garden, a genre-less sporting so delightfully various it flies in the face of all analogy – one might hear Miles Davis joining Miles Kane to reinterpret Last Shadow Puppets songs while Yes and ELO play muzak standards in the unsoundproofed room next door. 

Every sound on this album is perfectly placed (one thinks of Davis’ Kind of Blue) down to the last ride cymbal ping on Silence And Air – a positively cathedral arrangement, stunning when you remember that the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland-trained multi-instrumentalist Duncan recorded the entire project in his bedroom studio, building each track layer by layer.

On the second half of the record, the tender Novices occupies an almost fado register, only looking as much forward as back, an elegantly fingerpicked melody and finger-snap/brushes percussion pulsing – but from just behind the beat – yielding to Howard Shore strings. After an incredible sonic journey Duncan leaves us with the folk lullaby I’ll Be Gone By Winter, Dylanesque lyrics and Sting sentiments touched by one or two jazzy Moon River-like chord changes.  By the end we easily believe Duncan has taken us everywhere he goes, but we don’t believe for a second that he’s exhausted his potential.

Playing CCA, Glasgow on 24 Jul and Wickerman Festival, Dundrennan on 25 Jul http://soundcloud.com/mrduncan