ARTIST: C DUNCAN
LABEL: FATCAT RECORDS
WORDS: KEVIN FLINN
What do you get when you cross a classical music upbringing with an indie twist? If your answer was “confused”, you wouldn’t be to blame. These are two genres of music that, when compared at the surface level, are quite different. But no, this combination works in favor of Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist C Duncan, who recently released his third album, ‘Health’. With this blending of varied musical styles and instrumentation, C Duncan has produced an album that’s unique and a fresh take on both genres.
When listening to C Duncan, it’s wise to put everything down and focus on what’s coming through the speakers because there is a lot. Now that’s not a bash on this album or C Duncan at all. In fact, it’s a huge benefit to this music that listening to ‘Health’ requires such engagement. There are a lot of moving parts and the listener would be doing a disservice to not only this record, but themselves by missing out on everything going on.
“With this blending of varied musical styles and instrumentation, C Duncan has produced an album that’s unique and fresh.”
Not every song contains an in your face representation of classical music, but the backbone and soul of it is always there. Many songs, like the first track, ‘Talk, Talk, Talk’ and the title track, ‘Health’, contain obvious elements of classical music. Whether it be from a stringed section providing large orchestral swells, or from a piano melody nestled deep in music theory and composition, the influence is there.
And then there are the tracks with less obvious examples of classical music. ‘Impossible’ has more in common with Devo than Beethoven. However, the soul of the legendary composer is there. ‘Pulses & Rain’ sounds like a track from a mid-2000’s dance hall, albeit with a bit of a moodier quality, but oozes a composers flair. ‘Wrong Side of the Door’ gives off vibes of what The Beatles would sound like today, at least the psychedelic Beatles.
Every song has a distinctive quality to them that pushes the listener to get out of their comfort zone. The last track, titled ‘Care’, is a great example of this. The entire song is built around a simple piano waltz, but backed up by swelling synth that act as an orchestra. This is countered with the vocals, reminiscent of a church choir. This balance of modern and classical create a wonderful finale to the overall album, being a sublime example of that balance that C Duncan creates in his music.
“His music can be classified under the indie label, but it’s much more than that.”
While many of the tracks are more on the mellow end, there are a few that take a bit of an upbeat jazz influence. The aforementioned ‘Talk, Talk, Talk’ blends a synth-pop sound with a vocal quality that is evocative of some types of jazz. While ‘Blase’ is a bit more obvious with its jazz influence, by using typical jazz percussion instruments (vibraphone) and the guitar tonality blending with the percussion to evoke that style.
C Duncan has created a unique album in ‘Health’. There are a lot of emotionally moving pieces, whether it be from the instrumentation or the song structure itself, there isn’t a lack of variety here. While many musicians grow up learning music theory and composition in school, few use those skills learned to their advantage. C Duncan is the exception.
His music can be classified under the indie label, but it’s much more than that. He explores different genres and figures out how to apply them together to create a fresh sound. For fans of classical and indie music, this album has a lot going for it that many will appreciate. For everyone else, there is enough variety in each song that takes cues from other genres to appeal to you.