More about: Another Sky
On the album cover for I Slept On The Floor are four semi-anonymous portraits of Another Sky’s four members: drummer Max Doohan, guitarists Jack Gilbert and Naomi Le Dune (lead and bass respectively) and vocalist Catrin Vincent. Their portraits, each with their faces obscured, speak to the album’s interest in anxieties surrounding anonymity. Throughout the album, the difficult emotions of fear and misunderstanding are treated as malleable as Catrin’s vocals, often drawing beautiful sound from places where it wouldn’t be expected to reside. Purposeful and energetic, the band carve out their own space on this debut album, offering plenty for newcomers and fans alike to enjoy.
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Another Sky describe a wide range of influences from artists as varied as Tracy Chapman to Talk Talk and Four Tet, and given the strong political elements accompanied by their recognisably anthemic and intricate melodies, it’s no surprise that the band were offered a supporting slot alongside Biffy Clyro for their UK tour. Yet leaving strong credentials to one side, a debut album’s success often hinges on the artist’s ability craft a unique voice and offer the world something never seen before. It’s fitting therefore that one of the band’s most unique assets is Catrin Vincent’s vocal performance. Having originally heard 2018’s ‘Chillers’, when ‘Fell In Love With The City’ began to surface online earlier this year, it was immediately obvious at first listen that these were Catrin’s vocals. A mercurial sound akin to London Grammar’s Hannah Reid and even sometimes reminiscent of Coldplay’s Chris Martin’s upper ranges, Catrin possesses a unique, mellifluous tone which sensitively navigates the band’s rich instrumental soundscapes in almost every track. Just be careful trying to replicate the album’s floating melodies in the shower - loved ones may think you’ve slipped and hurt yourself.
Musically, the band favour towering, sudden crescendos, swept into existence by a combination of syncopated rhythm and breathless urgency on the vocal line. As Catrin’s voice walks a thin tightrope between fervour and falsetto, so too does the band who manage to wrestle with multiple timbres in the course of a single song. As often as the guitars grind out a grungy response to the vocals, so too do they often peel back at a moment’s notice. Another Sky are neither afraid to play with tempo nor to thin out their texture rapidly, contributing to create a highly polished sound.
Yet it’s when all four play at once that a chaotic urgency seems to reign, a quality common to the album’s strongest tracks. After feeling their way in softly with the opening ‘How Long?’, the band give over nearly five songs to this fervour, and it’s worth looking out for the pulsating break of tempo around a minute and a half into ‘Brave Face’ in particular: After this and ‘Fell In Love With The City’, you’ll have a good insight into what the band can do at their best. After this initial onslaught, the titular track provides a sensitive caesura, signalling a change in focus from a personal ‘I’ to a more communal ‘we’, although the former isn’t forgotten in examining the latter. The thematic ground of the album is remarkably wide, ranging from a generation facing extinction (“hope is a burden in the wrong hands, and theirs are holding us down, dying in us, our tree”) to the damage caused by toxic masculinity’s “fathers […] schools [and] boyfriends”. Inescapably a cultural artefact of the world in 2020, the extent to which all things feel political nowadays is palpable here. The latter stages of ‘Avalanche’ repeat the phrase, “They’re strangers, they’re in Hollywood, when you hold them to account, they’ll spit you out, just a bad taste”, but the anger doesn’t stray into a one-dimensional lecture. The album peaks in these urgent and energetic tracks (see also ‘The Cracks’ and ‘Let Us Be Broken’) where the deeply personal aspect of the album is so carefully interwoven with the collective, but on one occasion the lyrics stray into over-wrought hyperbole. The tone of ‘Riverbed’ is difficult to parse, where an uncharitable metaphor of small-town minds as ‘ankle-biters’ and ‘creatures bred in wet mud’ is unlikely to do more than throw additional fuel onto an already-raging cultural dumpster fire, despite the obvious musical merit of the song itself. This is not representative of the album as a whole however, which seeks to transform its anger into an impassioned response.
A simmering cauldron of vociferous protest, I Slept On The Floor is a record which stares down anonymising forces, and offers a fervent reclamation of selfhood. Catrin in interviews has acknowledged the harmful extent to which “silence plays into society”, something this record seeks to counteract, encouraging emotional subtext to bloom into fully-realised soundscapes. By giving voice to this feeling of tormented selfhood, the band generates tensions that straddle both the political and personal. Dichotomies such as urban vs small-town (‘Riverbed’), male vs non-male genders (‘Tree’ and ‘Avalanche') situate the songs’ perspective as sitting outside of, but railing forcefully against closed structures of power.
Part focused polemic, part wider meditation on feelings of disappearance and obscurity, Another Sky seem to have identified the now impossible-to-ignore connection between the difficulty of processing global events and our understanding own emotional states as a creative tool, and its potency is nowhere more apparent than on ‘Fell In Love With The City’, ‘Avalanche’ and ‘The Cracks’. It’s perhaps early to ask whether or not this album should be considered alongside the best of those released by some of Another Sky’s musical progenitors – that question would likely result in a negative response. If, however we frame the question in terms of whether this album offers its listener several exciting works which speak to genuine artistic talent, then contextualising this album feels much clearer. Representing the initial, exciting stages of a process of solidifying a strong artistic voice, I Slept On The Floor offers a firm foundation for future records. When gigs eventually return, this album has the strong sense of a collection of tracks which will make a thunderous impression when performed live. When that time comes, Another Sky will undoubtedly be in high demand.
I Slept On The Floor is out now via Fiction Records.
More about: Another Sky