There’s always something more than a little magical about being sent a music pre-release. Ultimately with the love and effort placed into the work, it’s the artists child and it feels like you are being entrusted with a first baby sit. My main responsibility within a review is to try and hold the child the right way up.
That sense of being handed something special is none more true than for Manchester based art rock Sylvette who weave a complex melody set to incredibly meaningful and personal lyrics. New album Single Thread is such a well considered piece of work – the emotions packed within this album are as intense and pressured as a black hole. There’s shock, stress, upset and love and loss, and something of a cathartic release. So much to unpick, in fact, I missed finishing my review for release date.
The theme of the album is nominally a dark one, and was created through lead singer Charlie Sinclair’s personal struggle caring for his disabled and terminally ill father and then subsequently dealing with loss through lockdown.
I’m lucky enough to be a grand age myself with both parents still in our world, but the timing in your life and the circumstances of losing a cherished loved one give a rich and unique context to the experience of death. Perhaps a lesson to our habit of becoming parents older; children more often become orphans at a younger age when their heads should be fixed onto more uplifting things.
With Single Thread, it feels as though every note is considered and carefully placed, and the band then step back to check its in the right place. Sylvette are an incredibly neat and tidy band in terms of musical structure, but at the same time they offer a rare and intriguing complexity.
The pre released singles from the album Blanket of Dust, Marble Stone and indeed the title track, Single Thread, gave an idea of the additional complexity in Sylvette’s music which brings the album into new territory for the band. This truly is an album where each play brings out a new aspect or melody to thread out of the whole.
Dream Diary 1 and Dream Diary 2 are exceptionally hard listens. It’s recorded in a feel of someone just woken up sharing the story of a nightmare; here Charlie describes some aspects of his fathers decline. It was taken from a voice message of a recurring nightmare Charlie made in the middle of the night. These recordings helped Charlie make some sense of and reconcile himself towards the recurrent sorry images and memories of his dad he was getting.
Blanket of Dust is a truly beautiful confection; it is a myriad of layers of sugar syrup, soft in the middle, hard and brittle around the edges. Choral pitch perfect and the sensitive gentle almost classical music backdrop lends a special air.
For this album, Sylvette had to focus upon a very personal and honest style rather than to imagine and create a dramatic art rock style on their chosen theme. I can only imagine how much harder and the pressure upon the band to get it right for Charlie and his dad (who I know from older social media posts massively supported the band). So this is an album which cuts through the “need” or “desire” to be dramatic – it’s the real deal.
It’s always interesting to know of the circumstances of the recording, and Sylvette explained the album was recorded in guitarist Jack March’s rented shipping container turned studio in North Manchester in the early hours (midnight to 3:00am) to avoid noise spill from other people in the unit. Along with the very personal subject matter, there’s a unique sense of togetherness as a result – the band literally locked into their own thoughts. The imagination and creativity was secured into that unit, witnessed only by Sylvette themselves.
Given all the plays this album has had now, I am leaning towards the closing track Right Where It Belongs to be my favourite. This is a track with a bit of an uplift, and a stunning piece of music. The term ‘Grand Ambition’ was built for Sylvette and Single Tread, and this is its culmination. It’s hard to think how the band might top the huge achievement of this album, but I know Sylvette will most likely achieve it in time.