Astrel K - Flickering i
Debut outing from Stockholm-based British ex-pat Rhys Edwards under his Astrel K guise. You'll likely know Edwards for fronting Ulrika Spacek, or perhaps recall the 7" he released on Duophonic last year. If you do, and you're a fan of either or both of those things, Flickering I is going to be a very welcome addition to your world. Edwards carries over much of this songwriting style from Ulrika Spacek, a kind of knotty, melodically informed arty indie rock which makes concessions to the some of the titans - Stereolab, Pavement, Yo La Tengo - but is struck with an intelligence and emotional vulnerability that's all his own. As Astrel K, the songs are perhaps a little more buoyant and rich sounding, drawing on string samples and ebullient synth lines that offer a neat instrumental counterpoint to lyrics that are often quite morose and emotive. Edwards is good with the words no doubt, handy with phrasing that finds a way of sticking in the mind, helped no end by the unconventional melodies and song structures he tends towards. There's very few misses here (a perfectly paced 39 minutes imo), though there's certainly some very obvious highs, particularly the mid album instrumental Forwardmomentum and the frankly startling six-minute opener, Is It It Or Is It I. I first heard the latter some time ago by virtue of an errant demo, and it's rarely left my thoughts since, a euphoric string sample/hook that leads a hugely emotive existential pondering worthy of prime-era Flaming Lips - "is this about loss or is this about loss of time". Given the last two years we've all had, that's a line that lands with genuine pathos. As smart as the compositions are, Edwards voice is the key communicator for me, fragile and wise, desperately grabbing at a big idea without any bombast or histrionics. Surely one of the debuts of the year.
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