[sic] Magazine

Chris Duncan – Architect

Like most truly interesting releases, Architect is difficult to peg. Glasgow-based Chris Duncan was born to classical musician parents and has that training in his armoury. Yet Architect is more of a bedroom acoustronica project, and indeed is more than just that. Lo-fi, dream-pop, folktronica – all these dip into the mix. I’d even throw in touches of Europop and 60s’ kitsch. Architect‘s opening song hints at a very bright future for Duncan, both as songwriter and performer. ‘Say’ might well be the standout or at least my own personal favourite cut here. With ‘Say’ we have a magical first glimpse into the Chris Duncan universe. Duncan’s singing voice is his USP, a gossamer coo equally dreamy as it is confident. ‘Say’s verses tick over nicely with snappy percussion, but the chorus really soars. (see video)

Of course there’s a reason why certain songs go up front. We ask ourselves, does the whole album match up to this start? To an extent, yes, it does. There are more than a few fine moments before we reach the album’s almost Christmassy conclusion. However, in the interest of balance I have to confess that other songs come up slightly short. To take the opening salvo as an example; the atmosphere of magic and wonder created by ‘Say’ is dampened immediately by the following title track. It’s almost as though somebody punctured a balloon. I will not say ‘Architect’ is a bad song. It is certainly performed beautifully (as is the whole record) but it belongs far deeper into the album. The sequencing would have fared much better if ‘Say’ had led straight into third track ‘Silence And Air’.

The pattern is set for the whole record. Some moments make you think Duncan can be something really special. Then, in turn, you get a piece that is more generic. Contemporary reference points could include Goyte when edging toward a more pop sound or any number of Scandinavian electronica artists (e.g. Tobias Lilja) when the music dives into oddness. Repetition does kick in at times, which is a pity because there are aspects to Chris Duncan’s music that are transcendent for these genres. I gather he both paints and composes music, which fits my image of him. He is only just finding his oeuvre. Refining it will make Duncan a musical force to be reckoned with. I should make clear that any perceived inconsistency on my part is veering between competent and outstanding, not good and bad. Chris Duncan is certainly an artist whose career I will follow closely on the strength of this release. I still believe his masterpiece is yet to come.

Chris Duncan at Fat Cat