Album review: C Duncan – Health

The artwork for C Duncan's new album, Health, which comes out on March 29.

The artwork for C Duncan's new album, Health, which comes out on March 29. - Credit: Archant

A contradictory concoction of electronica, club-lounge, disco-funk, lullaby-gospel and languid cool that works incredibly well.

Scottish multi-instrumentalist Christopher Duncan has ditched his bedroom studio and one-man modus operandi for a fresh approach to this third record.

Recruiting Elbow’s Craig Potter as producer, he worked with other engineers and musicians for the first time, adding more layers and lushness to his arrangements while maintaining a straight-talking approach to lyricism, navigating themes of love, anxiety and sexuality.

The result is a kind of fulsome, heart-on-sleeve dream-pop that works together synths, strings, piano and guitar.

Lead single Impossible comes on like John Grant, a motif of ‘80s synths and sharp strings while sweeping vocals lament the distance between lovers, even though they only live “on the other side of town”.

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The self-explanatory Stuck Here With You is delivered with an arch breeziness over a funky ‘70s concoction of shimmering shakers, limber bass and mellifluous synth keys.

Elsewhere, Holiday Home relaxes into Metronomy’s laid-back disco-funk territory, as does Talk Talk Talk’s bright, pneumatic synths – a choice cut for pre- or post-club playlists.

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But the Mercury-nominated star’s talents don’t stop there. The son of classical musicians, he also conjures laid-back, lounge-y atmospheres with silky keys, plangent, finger-picked guitar and brushed drums (Somebody Else’s Home and the slick Blasé).

And hypnotic arpeggiated piano and swooning synth, pricked with woodblock percussion (the excellent title track).

And lullaby-gospel complete with choir, piano and delicate strings in album closer Care.

And goes extra-terrestrial – hey, why not – for the languid, woozy salvation ballad He Came From The Sun.

In the wrong hands Health would have been a disaster. But Duncan ensures it improves and reveals more with each listen. It’s a very modern cross-pollination of strings and soft synths, drawing on classical and modern arrangements, executed with precision but injected with warmth and humanity.

C Duncan plays the Scala, King’s Cross, on May 8.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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