C Duncan – Midnight Sun ALBUM REVIEW

This piece was originally written for the Strathclyde Telegraph. Check out the full thing here.

The Midnight Sun was released just as days began to shorten, as leaves and evening frost started to crunch under shoes, and as a morning coffee became a way to warm up chilly hands instead of being just a coping mechanism. After its release, I walked around George Square listening to it through cosy padded headphones, watching Glaswegian faces that had become hidden under thick scarfs and exhales of cold air. It was a seasonal shift so perfect I was left beaming. Partly because of the cold, but mostly because of the vibes.

Duncan’s Mercury Prize nominated Architect had left me with a similar feeling in the summer of last year, its hazy textures and giddy rhythms reflecting Glasgow’s sunnier shades. I’m not normally one to notice seasonal transitions with such starkness, but C Duncan’s music has changed that. His home-studio produced songs truly feel larger than the solitary room they were constructed in. His classical training at Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire is evident in the fluid, detailed layers of sound worked into these pieces, which move from dream-pop, to synth odyssey to withered folk with each new breath.

Where Architect was sprawling in mood – bounding from bubbly jazz on Garden and quirky folk on Forthe Midnight Sun is more focused, capturing isolation and stillness in its glacial synths. Flashes of warmth peek through in Duncan’s hushed vocal, which is layered over itself with close, cooed harmonies. “See the other side/ the city is colder than before” he sings on early standout, the Other Side, his voice melting into twinkling keyboards as he ponders on how his life has changed over the past year.

The prominent indie folk influence is here – at points, C Duncan’s writing style recalls Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver with its sense of shared intimacy – but his rich textures feel more in line with the soundtrack from ‘Stranger Things’; these eerie, echoed keys manage to be chilling while warming the soul. The choral quality of the artist’s work hasn’t diminished either. The patient build of the title track allows time for the flowing vocals to sink into your skin.

Its low-key delivery might make the album seem dull on paper, but the vibrant musicianship and muscular production keeps each moment engaging. Crisp drumming, bright piano flourishes and hissing analogue synths are present throughout, adding to the consistent mood and personal feel of these whispered pieces.

In a year of turbulent politics and the usual bought of early winter blues, Midnight Sun has brought sonic catharsis. I’ll can see myself returning to it every year when the sun begins to disappear from Glasgow’s skyline.

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