C Duncan – Health

C Duncan takes a collaborative approach on his third album, creating a musical backdrop that's more dynamic than ever

Album Review by Amy Hill | 26 Mar 2019
  • C Duncan – Health
Album title: Health
Artist: C Duncan
Label: FatCat Records
Release date: 29 Mar

Health marks a radical change in scene for acclaimed Glaswegian virtuoso, C Duncan. Where he was previously accustomed to writing and recording in the comfort of his bedroom, this new record sees Duncan venture into an entirely different setting. In a bid for new direction, he's stepped out of the bedroom and into the studio, and has surrounded himself with fancy new producers (including Elbow’s Craig Potter), engineers and musicians.  

From the moment that the striking chords of Talk Talk Talk begin, the change is palpable. It’s exciting, it’s lively, it’s very different. Duncan’s voice maintains its trademark suavity, but this time with a backdrop more dynamic than in his previous work. The first single from the album, Impossible, showcases this vibrant new sound with a chorus that is unavoidably catchy. The texture of this record is broader than ever, with snappy strings and synths exhibiting a new depth of colour and complexity to Duncan’s sound.

Yet the tracks that begin the album don’t necessarily reflect the record as a whole. In the fourth track, He Came from the Sun, and throughout Health, Duncan intermittently revisits his characteristic mesmerising, melancholic tone. But there’s something different: as well as a maturity in production, Duncan’s subject matter has developed too. Songs such as Reverie and the title track are permeated not just with Duncan’s enthralling repeated instrumental motifs, but also an almost unsettling sense of something other. As his lyrics turn to topics of communication, sexuality, and anxiety, the songs delve deeper too.

Perhaps serving as a reflection of Duncan’s own attitude to his music, Health is in a state of constant flux, attempting to reconcile the old with the new. This is at times fascinating, at times disorienting. In his final track, Care, Duncan’s voice soars high, almost ghostly, over entrancing instrumentation, and it’s hard to remember the playful tunes that began the album.

While Health marks a notable departure from his previous work, this overall change in production has inevitably left something behind and we can’t help but miss the familiar sounds that emanated from his old makeshift bedroom studio. However, it heralds the beginning of an exciting and revitalising change in direction for C Duncan, and one of his greatest talents is his ability to craft an album that takes the listener places. Health is no exception; like all greats it grows on you the more you listen. 

Listen to: Talk Talk Talk, Health, Care