Music can often act as a time capsule. Genre tropes, production techniques and lyrical nuggets often give a clear picture of the time period they were crafted in, whether in the rustic crackles of sixties folk recordings, or the reverb soaked timbre’s of eighties drums. Bedroom tinkerers like Kevin Parker of Tame Impala have succeeded in reviving and subverting the tropes of musical eras gone by to become indie darlings in the process. What is even more impressive, though, is when an artist collects sounds from a multitude of musical ages to create something timeless. This is exactly what C Duncan achieves on his debut album Architect.
A bedroom studio wizard in his own right, Duncan crafts his songs through multi-track recording, layering his shy vocal on top of itself to form lush harmonies that cascade over finger picked guitar, organ, bass, loop microbeats, and brushed snares – all from the bedroom of his Glasgow flat. The result is a mix of ethereal dream pop, meditative folk, choral arrangements, jazzy elevator music and a slew of other musical textures.
Duncan’s time at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland bleeds into his music, with classically tinged song writing and a painstaking attention to detail. Though clearly working with a heady mix of influences, he creates something with a mood all of its own. The breezy textures of single ‘For’ feel effortlessly calming, but the subtle complexity of its weaving harmonies and skipping drum patterns keep the song from falling into the background. It’s an unapologetically sweet song, with a quirky whistle refrain placing somewhere between cheesy barbershop and a Wes Anderson soundtrack. It’s a sweetness that will be too strong for some, as will much of the rest of the album, but its uplifting positivity will be infectious to many more.
The choral quality of ‘Silence of Air’ is haunting, and undeniably pretty, with oohing vocals melting through each crescendo of cymbals. Duncan’s voice bares the soft texture of a singer such as Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen, whose music he has much in common with. At times, his vocal comes across as somewhat cold, but the vivid, dynamic instrumentation surrounding it always delivers in stirring emotions when his falsetto cannot.
On stripped back closer ‘I’ll Be Gone by Winter’, restrained guitar and organ ring out, allowing space for surprisingly melancholic lyrics. It’s another gorgeous cut, and one that showcases Duncan’s varied ability as a composer. By the end of Architect’s run time, C Duncan has delivered one of the most confident debuts of the year. It is a delicate album that creates its own little world of sound, whilst somehow remaining familiar.
‘Architect’ is out now on FatCat Records