“Under a Sinking Sun” (the 2007-06-22 Friday Fetch-it)


One review of The Deep Blue claimed that Charlotte Hatherley does “a spot-on impersonation of the Sundays' Harriet Wheeler” in the first half of Roll Over (Let It Go). This isn't quite true; but she does do a spot-on impersonation of herself singing very nicely. (The way she sings “lover” and “harbour” makes me want to hump her.) Charlotte's usually better at angular (Lazy Use of a Popular Musical Adjective #1) guitar-pop-punk-rock than at lush dream-pop. Even in Roll Over her “sha-la-la”s and “ooh”s don't bed into the instrumentation fully enough to match up to the Sundays or the Cocteau Twins: however soft the vocals' surfaces are, they still have sharp edges.

Hidden tracks—meanwhile—are generally a bit rubbish: they're the recorded equivalent of leaving the stage for a minute or two, before returning to perform—surprise!—an encore. Supposedly “hidden” tracks are even easier to see coming: enter track length display. Nonetheless, there's the obligatory minute or two of silence after the last song-proper, to fool you into thinking the album's over... as well as to royally screw up shuffled playlists and mix discs. Only if you leave the thing alone, either by the serendipity of sheer laziness, or by taking keen notice of the fact that it's still playing, may you bask in the bounty of the hidden track. ...which is usually about half a minute long and fades out just as it starts to resemble a decent song. Not so on The Deep Blue.

The last track, Siberia, ends with an improv-y crescendo of guitar and piano that gives way to a final guitar loop; six iterations later, the loop drops abruptly to silence. It's a strong conclusion to an album that never loses momentum throughout, despite many changes of pace and mood.

Two minutes of silence ensue.

Two minutes—that's a long time.

It's probably taken you about that long to read this far.

The silence draws you in. It makes you listen more carefully, in case there's something quiet going on that you're otherwise missing.

Silence is far more potent than leaving a large break in text—you can just read faster, skip over a blank page in the space of a second or two.

It makes you wonder: when will the silence be broken? And by what? And when it is broken, it makes the sound that breaks it that much more profound.

Two minutes of silence.

After two minutes, Siberia and the rest of the album are a fond memory rather than a present experience, and what follows stands separately from the album.

All momentum has now ceased.

Out of the silence springs a quiet guitar, at times reverberating like a sonar pulse; accompanied by a slow, almost occasional, soft drumbeat. By this point it sounds like it could be your heartbeat. After a little while a deep, resonating, warm acoustic guitar joins; and then Charlotte's singing.

Those sharp edges in her voice are entirely engulfed by the rich, expansive acoustic guitar and the other sonance swirling around her. There's the occasional glugging sound, probably produced on a xylophone, but sounding more like air escaping from an underwater cove, or a seahorse scarpering as a pebble falls towards it.

Three minutes in, although it feels like about half that, the rich swirls of sound die down, returning to the more minimal arrangement of the intro. It's at this point—if not before—that lesser hidden tracks would just have faded out, and you half-expect this intro arrangement to be the song's conclusion.

Instead, the same intro riff acquires the accompaniment of the deep acoustic guitar and a violin, which plays a legato, swaying, floating line. The violin stays around while the main, warm riff resumes and Charlotte sings another chorus.

Again, she's accompanied by the same swirling sonance, with the addition of the reverberating whooshes of a couple of passing space-dolphins. (Lost In Time could be described as the musical analogue to Ecco the Dolphin 2: The Tides of Time on the Mega-Drive.)

The guitar riff from the intro concludes the song with the full resonant lushness of the song's body, and the acoustic guitar resonates into silence.

This is dream-pop. If you download one song this week, make it Lost In Time.


(How do you follow that? With Death Cock by Broken Social Scene Hjertebarn by Under byen. Or, preferably, another two minutes of silence.)