Sky Cathedrals (feat. Florence Glen)
Elysium is available at:
MASTER & COPYRIGHT OWNERSHIP:
Sky Cathedrals / Florence Glen
WRITERS & PUBLISHERS:
Stefan Nathan Gandhi (Copyright Control/BMI) James Booth (Copyright Control/PRS) Florence Elizabeth Edith Glen (Copyright Control/PRS)
PRODUCED & MIXED BY:
Florence Glen and Paul James
Tom Woodhead (www.hippocraticmastering.com)
Thomas Stoop (www.thomasstoop.com)
April 18th, 2016
IT is unusual to review an act that is essentially…
fresh from the womb. My featured act has just released their debut single. In terms of social media followers, the numbers will climb: At the moment; a smattering of people are fans of Sky Cathedrals. Before I come to them I wanted to look at the group, it is worth looking at the importance of early impressions; cinematic/widescreen music- finishing off investigating bands from around Leeds. I am seeing many young bands/acts emerge with their own sound and ideas. As music becomes ever-more crowded and competitive: It is increasingly difficult making an impact and separating yourself aside. What I find with a lot of acts- with regards negatives and naivety- is the social media and music side of thing. When it comes to social media, too many acts are uninformative and bare. I get fed up with musicians that arrive and simply put a song out there: No information or background; no links to other social media sites- just the song dropped out there. Obviously, the music is the most important thing but what is the listener to do? You have a track out there but, given the lack of band information and context, it seems rather inconsequential. With tonnes of artists coming out by the week: There is no excuse to negate base-level considerations. I am not suggesting (musicians) have epic paragraphs and reveal too much of themselves: Just take the time to inform the fans and give them a window into your world. Musicians’ defence- when it comes to this oversite- is the fact they don’t want to become too open and transparent. If you provide some biographical information- musicians that inspire you; plans for the future- and some photos, it is hardly opening the pages to your diary. Music reviewers are not tabloid press: They want information to help their reviews seem more authoritative and detailed. As a fan, I am curious to learn about a band/artist’s influences and where they came from. I raise this point because Sky Cathedrals- even though they are making their first step- have taken the trouble to put the work in. The band (duo, technically) have a SoundCloud and Instagram account set up: Ready for music and photos to go in there. Before I carry on my point, let me introduce Sky Cathedrals to you:
“Alongside other bands and projects, Mighty Kid and Paul James have created a musical style of their own using their combined multi-instrumental, songwriting and production skills. Here is ‘Elysium’, the debut single from this rousing new duo, Sky Cathedrals. The single will be released with B–side remixes by TIGERBLOOD and Maukoe.
Raised in Portugal and born in North Yorkshire, folk singer/songwriter Florence Glen co–wrote the song in between recording her debut solo EP. Her vocals serve up a tender but colossal performance exploring the loss of love and perfect state of bliss in an almost cinematic style of composition, combining orchestral and contemporary musical elements underpinned by a trip hop style beat.
The production value of this piece is remarkable, incorporating sound effects and dense reverbs that create a monumental soundscape of emotion for Florence to deliver her message; the song builds throughout and culminates with a resounding chorus complete with brass section and strings, which lend themselves perfectly to the silver screen”.
The boys of Sky Cathedrals will stick in the mind of many listeners. Not just because they have put the graft in with regards social media. The music they create- demonstrated across Elysium– is instilled with cinematic beauty and drama; stunning originality and wonderful, orchestral touches. I have heard many duos, yet none has the same sound as this Leeds outfit. What the guys do is to incorporate lush, moody compositions with sharp beats and sound effects: A gamut of emotions and genres feed into the music. Describing their sound as ‘Cinematia’; it is a very apt term. Like cinema- the contrasts and conflicts- the music embraces so many different ideas and emotions. There is no excuse- in this modern day- to replicate what everyone else is doing. I get fed up of new bands/solo artists arriving who knock-off other musicians. It is tempting to ‘fit into’ the scene; if you are doing that by lazily ripping someone else off, then what’s the point? You can never accuse Sky Cathedrals of being sound-alike and uninspired. Linking up with Florence Glen; Mighty Kid and Paul James have created a gorgeous and unforgettable song in Elysium. Before getting to the song- and the fact Sky Cathedrals hail from Leeds- it gets my thinking about the Yorkshire city. New York, L.A. and London might seem the obvious places for the best musicians around. Defined as epicenters for culture, music and arts, they might have to relinquish their grasp. Leeds might not seem the obvious rival for L.A. and London: In terms of music; they are very much leading the way. Once Leeds was hampered by a lack of venues, financial and opportunities (for music). Inspired by the successes of Kaiser Chiefs- one of the most notable bands to emigrate from the city- more chances are being offered to Leeds’ artists.
Leeds has the fastest-growing economy in the country; musicians are taking advantage of this. Utilising social media- spreading the word and promoting other acts- one-night gigs and new music venues are sprouting up. No longer is Leeds the impoverished, ghost town for musicians. Although the Yorkshire city still has its dark side- like any city in the country; not everything is picturesque and perfect- there has been development, improvement and resurgence. This determination and evolution are showing in the music of Leeds. Over the last few years, I have assessed dozens of Leeds-based musicians. What always strikes me about them- compared with artists from other parts of the U.K. – is the originality and nuance that is presented. Whether Electro.-Swing or Indie-Rock: You always get something a little special and unexpected. I am not sure whether certain factors- the city growing and becoming more attractive- has led to this wondrous music revolution. There is still some way to go- Leeds is growing and expanding by the year- but eyes are no longer fixated with London and Manchester. If anything, Leeds is the most important music centre in the country. Over the coming years, bands like Duels and The Ivories- the former mixes the likes of Madness with David Bowie; the latter is one of the hottest female bands in the land- are ensuring Leeds gets the recognition it deserves. Throw in The Research- considered Britain’s answer to The Beach Boys- and you have a city that is watering mouths are producing some exceptional talent. Sky Cathedrals seem very Leeds-like in their approach. I would be shocked to hear a duo like them arrive from London or Liverpool, let’s say. Although there are capable musicians in these cities- that can get their mind away from Indie, Alternative and Pop cores- Leeds’ artists are much more inventive, experimental and original. Elysium is a track that marks their arrival with fanfare, determination and huge impact. Whether you are a fan of cinematic-based music- that ties together Hans Zimmer with The Cinematic Orchestra- you need not be wary. The duo present music that has that universal appeal and is not confined to certain audiences. Widescreen and expansive; tender and personal: You get so many different strands and ideas in the music. I am not sure what the guys have in mind this year- a new E.P. or a debut album- but I am going to be waiting with baited breath. If they can replicate their successful blends across an E.P.: The boys will see thousands of fans flock their way. I feel there is a move against the tried-and-tested duos/bands of the mainstream. Listeners want something deeper, more long-lasting and memorable. Sky Cathedrals are the perfect example of a Modern British Act: Those that can appeal to the population at large; coming across as wholly unique along the way.
It is hard to compare Elysium with any previous Sky Cathedrals material: This is their first cut and introduction to the music world. As debut singles go; it is empathic, stunning and hard to escape. Their cinematic sounds work wonderfully on their own (in single-form) but could easily sit together in an E.P. or album. Sky Cathedrals spent a year creating Elysium and honing the sound. After auditioning multiple singers- to get that essential vocal- they found Florence Glen. I know a lot of instrumental-based acts/producers who have the same recruitment problems. When you have that composition laid down; you have a very distinct view of the vocal that should support it. This attention to detail and perfectionism shows throughout Elysium. I would be excited to see what the duo does next. Given the time it took to complete their debut single; it might take a while for an E.P. to come through. Maybe Paul James and Mighty Kid have other songs-in-progress and brewing. If you are new to the producing duo- many people would be- you might be looking around for comparable acts. On their Facebook page; Sky Cathedral lists the aforementioned as influences:
Aquilo, M83, Ludovico Einaudi, Nils Frah; The Cinematic Orchestra, Hans Zimmer, Keaton Henson; London Grammar, Woodkid; Luke Sital-Singh, White Royal
The best three names- that tie together through their debut song- are The Cinematic Orchestra, Hans Zimmer and London Grammar. The sound effects, cinematic scope and drama- that you can hear in Elysium– put me in mind of Hans Zimmer’s work. The beauty, intensity and sweeping moments- you can hear throughout albums Ma Fleur and Motion- reminds me of The Cinematic Orchestra’s best work. The British Nu-Jazz/Electronic group was masterful when it came to matching songs with singers. The lush and gorgeous vocals of Florence Glen (across Elysium) put me in mind of London Grammar’s Hannah Reid. With Glen- unlike Reid to an extent- you get more depth, originality and beauty to the voice. I have always been impressed by Hannah Reid’s huge power and spine-tingling voice. Florence Glen has more sides and dynamics to her voice. I would love to see Glen and Sky Cathedrals collaborate in future releases. It would be marvelous to see how the artists can evolve and grow together. Whatever Sky Cathedrals have in mind- looking for radio play and planning another single, maybe- their fan numbers will grow. Right now, there is a modest following for the Yorkshire act.
Arriving at the song in question; the very first moments present stately notes and immediacy. Piano notes slam whilst a ghostly (electronic) wail lingers in the background. In the space of a few seconds, you get a perfectly fitting introduction to Florence Glen’s voice. The listener is free to imagine scenes and find out what the song is really about. Myself, I was looking at far-off oceans and an odd serenity. Maybe bedecked in twilight mystery: You find yourself floating on the waves and submitting. “I’m drifting on an ocean” are the first words that are sung. Our heroine is stepping before someone: Hearing the words they have to say. Whether a God-like figure or something more personal- a sweetheart or friend- there is that need for confession and revelation. Listening to the “words you had to say” there seems to be that emotional confusion and doubt. That initial ambiguity gets the mind wondering and speculating. I was wondering whether our heroine was speaking with a lover- and professing affection- or revealing something quite harrowing. Elysium- a restraint in Leeds, incidentally- is that state of perfection and bliss, so it would be wise to say there is some happiness and positivity emerging. Underneath the smoky, powerful vocals is that edge of mystique and double-meaning. Glen’s voice has that atmospheric, rousing strength that puts you in mind of London Grammar’s Hannah Reid. The sparse punctuation and nighttime intimacies recall If You Wait (London Grammar’s debut album) at its finest. Our heroine has teariness to her voice: Her love is far away and did not realise “what you mean to me”. Imploring “What have we become?” there is that sense of dismay and heartache. Whatever the circumstances behind the rift- and why they are separated at the moment- you start to imagine and conspire. Glen never lets her voice become too wallowy and self-obsessed: In fact, it has an openness and grandeur that is impossible to ignore. Moving mountains and overcoming obstacles would have you believe (this relationship) has fought the currents and seems doomed. Maybe the distance between them has caused strains and irreparable damages. In spite of the problems and realities; there is that burning passion and determination. You can hear that affection and dedication in every point of the vocal. The hero still belongs to the heroine- he is a piece of her- and you start to empathise with Glen.
Every word seems born from a very personal space; a true tale that has left impressions on her soul. The brittle beauty and stunning vocals (by Glen) is supported by ghostly electronics and understated beauty. Sky Cathedrals have expended a lot of energy ensuring the composition evokes huge force and potential. Not just reliant on Glen’s vocal: The score has its own majesty and constantly gets inside the head. With the heroine bereft and pining for her man- trying to forget him but unable to shake the bond- the producers allow their composition to speak. Yearning, aching strings sit with foot-stomp piano and shimmering soulfulness. It is hard to define the composition in pure terms. There are so many different ideas, strands and emotions that are packed in there. Despite (the composition) having a discipline and controlled power; there is so much nuance to be found. The production skills are exceptional; allowing the song to breathe and campaign without sounding over-produced and glossy. Glen is a singer I have not heard from but showcases what a set of pipes she has. It would be remiss to compare Glen with London Grammar’s Reid: The two have different sound yet share common threads. That voice threatens to explode but never does: There is intense passion but everything is kept in check and never gets too carried away. Many singers ululate and let their voice swoop, dive and lose focus. Florence Glen is not the only star of the show; it is the collaboration of the trio that makes Elysium such a star. The exceptional production and slow-burning composition- there is subtlety and intention working in contrast- are the perfect backdrop and evoke a range of colours and ideas. I can tell how much work has gone into Elysium’s creation and the attention that has been paid. Mighty Kid and Paul James have a tremendous air for cinematic sounds and sound effects. Lesser producers would either pack too much into the song or leave it too wanting. Happily, the Yorkshire duo gets the balance just right and have created something quite wonderful. The composition could stand on its own legs- perfectly score a dramatic scene or Indie drama- but it is the unity of Sky Cathedrals and Glen that makes the song so scintillating.
It is clear; Leeds is still one of the most relevant places for brilliant new music. The D.I.Y. culture of the city is seeing masses of young musicians get up and make the best music possible. No longer seen as a minor player in Britain’s music scene: Leeds is now THE place to find the finest musicians from around the U.K. Leeds has that odd blend of growing economic pride and existing poverty. The high streets are booming and there is a resurgence happening. On the other hand, you still get these pockets of deprivation that seem conflicted with Leeds’ economic prosperity and improvement. In spite of the improvements happening around the Yorkshire city: There is a sense of familiarity and the generic creeping in. The high streets stores are the same as everywhere else; not saying Leeds is becoming gentrified, yet it is not the most inspiring backdrop for the musicians hailing from here. As a result, Leeds’ finest are rebelling and putting character into the mix. Whether it is via band night- at charming, quirky pubs- or utilising social media to full effect; I can see something wonderful happening. Leeds’ musicians are growing bored with the sameness that is creeping in. Unlike any other part of Britain; Leeds has that diversity and originality that is extraordinarily rare. It is hard to draw a line between alt-J and The Wedding Presents; Kaiser Chiefs and he Mekons- just a small handful of bands that call Leeds home. White Royal mix chills and mournful refrains inside their impactful music. Eaves (the moniker of Joseph Lyons) sees sensational vocals- impossibly high notes and an unerring beauty- with genuine warmth and beauty. Zealous Doxy’s Acid-Psych-Folk blends captivating vocals with stunning banjo performances. Allusondrugs- a band I keep mentioning in my reviews- are a sensational live proposition whose songs have captured the imaginations of their growing fans- the band is getting stronger and more popular by the month.
It is clear: Leeds does things differently to other parts of the world. The musicians here have a way of working that other (areas) should take note of. I am proud of London and the prosperity it is experiencing. I love the capital’s finest musicians but feel they lack the unique edge and wonderful characters you get from Leeds. Whether this trend will continue- and see Yorkshire’s finest go from strength-to-strength- it all bodes very well. Sky Cathedrals seems like they have the potential to go a very long way. Not your average Rock-cum-Indie band- talking about the same things with the same compositions- they have an originality and impression that remains in the memory for a long time to come. Mighty Kid and Paul James are producers whose knowledge of music filters through the voice of the best singers out there. Elysium shows what a prospect Florence Glen is. In a way, the most direct comparison (one can levy at Sky Cathedrals) is The Cinematic Orchestra. Influential to the duo: You can hear familiar shades in the music of Sky Cathedrals. Those incredible and varied compositions soundtrack your life in a very gripping and beautiful way. Let’s hope the guys create something akin to Ma Fleur: The Cinematic Orchestra’s third album that saw them bring singers Patrick Watson and Fontella Bass into the music. Hugely affecting and bracing: The album brings mini-masterpieces together into a brilliant record. Some have criticised Ma Fleur for being a little tiresome and testing. I feel Sky Cathedrals will suffer no such drawbacks. Elysium is one of the most confident debut singles I have heard in a long time. It shows (the duo) want to make their voices heard and have plenty more music left inside them. I can see an E.P. arrive very soon- whether that is already in progress- and highlight what music really needs. There are so many predictable acts out there; the listener becomes very jaded and uninspired. Music needs more artists like Sky Cathedrals as they offer that depth, drama and intense beauty. Unlike a lot of sapling groups; Sky Cathedrals have ensured they are accessible and forthcoming. Too many groups put a song into the ether and leave their social media pages bare-naked and empty. In this time of music- where there is intense competition and unpredictability- you need to reveal a little of yourself to the listener. More photos and shots will arrive in time- this review has the same photo repeated many times- but you cannot fault (Sky Cathedrals) when it comes to biography and insight. I am not shocked to see Leeds produce a wonderful, original act. The city keeps exceeding expectations and showing how things should be done. I am confident Sky Cathedrals will be a producing music for many years to come. If Elysium is anything to go by, the results will be…
GLORIOUS to behold.
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