words by maria sledmere
You’re walking down a city street around six o’clock, autumn slowly unfolding its luxury of dusk. Look up for a split second, inhale what’s before you. Masses of people, scattered at random, faces glued to the luminous shards of their screens. Human features become ghostly against the violet shadows, aluminium wafers in the palm of their hands; there’s a sense of bewilderment as you pass uncertain through clusters of people, feel the turbulent blur of each near-collision. Faces glance up, if only for a moment. You blink heavily as you realise your place in this sea of distraction, plug in your headphones with eyes open wide to the sound of your mind.
The latest single from Knightstown, the solo vocal/electronic project of composer and songwriter Michael Aston, effortlessly presents this unsettling tour towards mediated abyss. When so much of the world is distilled in our iPhones, their microcosmic cluttering of data, new track ‘Eyes Open Wide’ restores the synaesthetic bliss of psychic space. While debut single ‘First Cry’ set the scene for a tender, melodic corridor into intimacy and longing, pulsing with the cat’s eye flickers of its roving beats, ‘Eyes Open Wide’ feels more expansive, sprawling sonorous vocals over a subtle, Bonobo-style effulgence of strings and percussion. As Aston’s voice slips seamlessly up the octaves, he relates “living in this ocean” as a sublime experience of disorientation as much as complete synergy with one’s surroundings. Beats quicken amid sharp waves of oscillating strings, with polyrhythmic synths building currents underneath. Such buoyant layering renders this skipping between facets of reality, riding the glistering debris of surface, swept along in the comforts of lush production.
With its definite surges, its chordal resolutions slyly deferred, the song offers a statement on pleasure and release–what emerges from claustrophobia is the possibility for epiphany and transmission. Aston’s fluid yet intricate arrangements reflect his compositional experience without losing the absorbing joy of pop. Comparisons to Four Tet, Laura Mvula and C Duncan can only do justice to Knightstown’s knack for carving out possibilities for space: space we inhabit through attentive, sensuous listening; the kind of listening, warm and shivery, that involves brainwaves slipping through carefully ravelling rhythms, reaching the sweet spots of sadness or bliss.
‘Eyes Wide Open’ is released on September 29th, via Fatcat Records