While the spectral beauty of 2007’s Frieze adhered to a more conventional song routing, on Spectroscope Chris Letcher has rallied his learnings from his studies towards a doctorate in Music Composition at the Royal College of Music in London, and spiked these with some anarchic African moments to create a moveable feast of sound. Be warned: Spectroscope isn’t easy listening. It’s dense and changeable, disregarding the needs of those who want albums to have songs that can be hummed on the way to pick up bread and milk. Even the most obviously “pop” song on offer, “The Sun! The Sun!”, book-ends the catchy piano that opens the track with an ethereal refrain (“I know without you I’m lost”). But for the open-hearted listener, there’s much to relish: the opening of “The Loneliest Air”, sounding, for a moment, like an orphan child of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and The Wolf, is magnetic; Letcher’s ability to stretch out the word sadness on “Twin Fins” is a revelation – and the plunging piano and African rhythms of “Phone Booth” could easily be a Vampire Weekend outtake and should earn him a broader audience. Letcher has a career as a soundtrack writer – he recently scored a BBC adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Women in Love – and is firmly based in the U.K. Still, the appearance of mbiras on “I’m New Here” – an adaptation of the Bill Callahan composition – is a heart- warming nod to his Durban roots, helping draw a line from intense Urban Creep kid to gifted international soundscaper.
Key Tracks: "Twin Fins", "Phone Booth"