Duncan Lloyd (Maximo Park / Nano Kino) is announcing a brand new solo album, Outside Notion, along with a video for the record’s first single Young Dreams, in what makes for a fresh and definite lean away from the indie-rock he is known for.

Orchestrated segments circle around telling insights, executed with a depth of tender maturity. Breaking away from familiar territory, each song is it’s own defined journey of sorts. Sprawling jams and evolving layers open out to reveal the minutiae of smartly observant often heart-breaking lyrics. Young Dreams morphs oddly fitting drones with loose mannered guitars and violins that spiral over syncopated rhythm lines, into multi-dimensional layers of texture, gradually unfolding into thrilling chaos.

Of the single, Lloyd comments; “Young Dreams is a song about temptation and being taken in with the idea of a place that isn’t all it promises to be, it’s about young voices not being heard and a battle with what is imagination, and what is not. For the video, I wanted to create imagery I hadn’t seen or tried before, mixing colourful animation with moving footage, drifting through trees and city streets, then to a gig in a bar, and perhaps there’s a subconscious sideways nod to ‘Take On Me’ by AHA.”

Deep down it is a very human record, about our flawed nature, our temptations, loneliness & limitations. What comes to the fore on Outside Notion is Lloyd’s grip of engaging composition and his ability as an individual songwriter is growing into something truly special. The weightiness of certain themes is balanced by a weightless abandon of the arrangements, showing a deep complexity to his work. This is easily his most adventurous & soulful record to date.

“On this album things have taken a little more time to process, i wanted the dots to join and for it to work as one piece, each song being a window into something deeper. Be it in the form of mental escapism or loss for example, admittedly it’s not always clear what I’m channelling but it felt right to follow what has been bubbling under for a while. In turn it made greater sense of the writing process & where I can take it. Ultimately, I like that there is still a sense of ambiguity in these songs, not everything needs to be spelt out or to make immediate sense as life isn’t like that.”

The album opens with the long-bowed notes of distant distorted strings popped and punctured by a loose acoustic drum and a mid-tempo drawl, “Been in my car for three days / it’s a wonder i ever got away”. Historic Elements is transient and dreamlike, dragging you feet first onto a raft intent on exploration.

Young Dreams morphs oddly fitting drones with loose mannered guitars & violins that spiral over syncopated rhythm lines into multi-dimensional layers of texture, gradually unfolding into thrilling chaos. To then be encompassed by the earthy magnetism of a song like Planetarium, where every surging note resonates with purpose. Both songs achingly relevant as they wander lost through a capital on the verge of seismic change, “All the while the city she smiles / Through the gaps in her teeth”.

With the exploratory also comes the engaging, the title song Outside Notion (Lloyd joined on vocals by his Nano Kino collaborator Sarah Suri) is fuelled by observations caught from the crumbling coastal hinterland near where they live, “from abandoned old tombs / where the city once bloomed / lightbulbs swing in lone chapels of light” vocally it’s a perfect match, Suri’s lofty vocal leads the song halfway through to re-join Lloyd’s tender delivery, highlighting adept observations that leave the listener with emotive visual markers long after the record has played out.

“I want to transport the listener in some way then bring them back down, there’s a different kind of layering, some elements hypnotic, some elements wider, less predictable and then space.”

Collaborating with string arranger Amy May (John Cale, Aphex Twin, The Xx) & influenced by the likes of Vaughan Williams and Scott Walker,  Lloyd wanted to use strings to bring pastoral elements into the picture, extra textures that have worked to beautiful and fascinating effect, crossing orchestrated elements with a rawness that Neil Young or Neutral Milk Hotel would tap into.

He admits that there are messages to his father (who passed in 2010) on the gothic folk of Guess & Wonder and 5am Eyes, a song born from a bare arrangement, written at the time, now woven with scintillating strings. It is a subject which he explored as sound experiments on, Transit / Pulse an album under his Decade in Exile moniker, but here finding a way with understated, moving words. Although a melancholy breathes throughout the record he intuitively steers the weightier themes so that light flickers into the furthest of corners.

The record was recorded by Lloyd himself, joined by Tom English on drums and mixed by Dave Maughan. “As a teenager I was a fan of an album by Eric Mathews called It’s Heavy In Here, I was into his vocal style and always wanted to use strings in a way that didn’t feel obvious, instead of, hey here’s some guitar music with strings stuck on the top, it was more that the strings are the song, a vital texture, First Monday is a good example of that. I worked with Amy on recording and layering the violin parts and Gemma Kost played the cello”.  Outside Notion is an album of dark elegance, exquisitely realised, assembled from organic sounds and songs that bypass the road of slick production tricks, it is a captivating and emotive listen. If you didn’t know Lloyd was the engine behind Maximo Park’s music there isn’t anything here that would give you the impression he was, he has found his own patch and it’s a delight to see, where he goes next is an intriguing thought.

 

 

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