C Duncan

Health

(LP - FatCat Records #FATLP 151LTD)

Review by

2016's Midnight Sun saw the Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist Christopher Duncan, better known by the stage name C Duncan, expanding on the lush bedroom pop of his Mercury Prize-nominated debut with something a bit more grandiose. Working for the first time with an outside producer -- Elbow's Craig Potter -- as well as other engineers and musicians, Duncan continues to push forward on 2019's Health, pairing the spectral melodies and lush harmonies of past outings with club-ready beats and flourishes of snappy R&B. More sophisti-pop than indie pop, the 12-song set is Duncan's most diverse to date, with ABBA-leaning post-disco confections like "Holiday Home" and "Impossible" elbowing up against surreal, Lynch-ian slow jams ("Wrong Side of the Door") and incorporeal waltzes ("Care"). Duncan's voice is a marvel of control and expression throughout, able to clone itself in a plume of Enya-worthy layers or to simply soar off into the inky blue via a buoyant tenor. The cavernous reverb that dominated his early work has been tightened up, resulting in moments that are as punchy and bright as they are sumptuous -- the velvety title track and the late-album gem "Pulse & Rain" deliver both predilections in spades. The brooding, hymn-like closer, "Care," and the resplendent coming-out anthem "He Came from the Sun" hew closer to the sonic intimacy that was generated on 2015's Architect, but even they feel larger than life, signaling not so much a stylistic shift for Duncan, but a maturation of his ability to build worlds out of sound, and in his overall confidence as well.

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