Robyn G Shiels & Steve Nolan – Sky Drew Near: Album Review

Robyn G Shiels and Steve Nolan get together on an album that’s well worth a half-hour of your time; never mind the width, feel the quality.

Release Date: 10th July 2020

Label: Wormhole World

Format: DL / CD (a few left)

An artist who’s new to us, but a quick search online finds Robyn G Shiels described as the provider of “decent music for decent folk.” Suits us down to the ground, although we do like the “writes songs to make you feel uncomfortable” line as well as the desaturated towns and cities of yesterday graphics on his on his social media. However, you can’t beat Drowned In Sound’s “recommended to anyone who has ever considered killing to find their own particular peace.

Then there’s what we can only describe as the sonic architecture of Steve (‘noise maker‘) Nolan that immediately adds a cinematic/soundtrack element to the mix and bring to the table. Homework done, we can settle down for a listen to nine tracks where the line “there is nothing but heartache to waste away a man...” opens proceedings and establishes the expectation that darkness is drawing in on Sky Drew Near.

The fascinating combination of Shiels’ songwriting and Nolan’s electronic manifestations brings about an atmospheric post-rock style mood. Aaquivering and nightmarish post-folk beauty that might for some recall the weary atmospheres of Dylan’s Lanois-produced work.

Amidst the languid visions of a world gone wrong, the song title clues of Insults, Love Gone and Demons play to expectation, yet there are hints of redemption in Courage and Dignity. Grief and revenge are two contrasting bedfellows. Worry Not Now also veers into bizarre lullaby territory, where thoughts of coming close to hell counters with angelic choirs on the verge of putting in an unexpected appearance.

The duo display a Neil Young influence with acoustic guitar placed against the overdriven distorted guitar on Demon. The relatively simple guitar phrase providing the base for an experiment in sound. Likewise, another stark piano part becomes one of the layers that contribute to the bleakness of Love Gone. Eternity works on pretty much the same principles.

The grander arrangement and production on Dignity only emphasises the scale of which the duo are capable. The sound of opening doors to bleak rock, flitting twixt heaven and hell.

This bleak yet absorbing set of songs contains enough intensity in its half hour passage and inevitable repeated investigation. No wonder Nolan quotes Tom Waits on his Twitter – “I like beautiful noises telling me terrible things.”

Listen to Dignity here:

Robyn G Shiels online: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp

Steve Nolan online: Bandcamp / Twitter

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