- 05 Jul 19
Irish artist has excitingly fresh approach.
So one of our most promising Northern lights has finally delivered – and done so in style. Sam Wickens is a singer-songwriter from Bangor, who detours from the normal vocals and guitar route, and explores more adventurous electronic and sonic terrain. Sure, his intense and highly personal approach might owe a little to Tom Waits, Jeff Buckley, Hozier et al, but the end result is rarely less than mesmerising.
‘Cliffside’ comes with a Himalayan vocal drone effect, delicate harmonies over subtly infectious rhythms, and a stunning vocal from Wickens. ‘Ice’ is equally impressive, as the singer toys with his vocals, and employs synths to unsettle rather than sooth. The confessional ‘Forest’ eases back on the techno front, for a track that explores self-forgiveness, openly referencing Wickens’ own depression. Like most of All I’ve Seen, the wistful ‘Falling’ could be filed under electro-folk. The more panoramic ‘Ravens & Crows’ comes wrapped in sombre strings, and is propelled by a sparse, piledriving beat. Laura McFadden’s cello adds to the track, but most of the key instruments throughout the record (guitars, piano, synths) are played by Wickens himself, who also had a hand in the production.
Lyrically, his songs often come with biblical/religious references, as in the prophetic ‘Eden’, where he makes a case for faith over secularism, reminding us of Northern Ireland’s gospel music tradition. More concerning equally to those of faith – or of none – is the mono-moodiness of the whole enterprise; the only seriously up-tempo track is folk-rocker ‘Jericho’. Oddly it comes last, like an uninvited, out-of-place guest. But that grievance apart, this is a fine debut.