EP: Christian Linsey and D.Catalano – SP Mode (Christian Linsey Version)

This is an unusual e.p in that it is both collaboration and reinterpretation rolled into one. Taking as its cue, the already existing album, SP mode by D Catalano, a quietly hypnotic ambient collection in its own right, this set of songs feels both nostalgic and futuristic in equal measure pulsating with deliberately faded grandeur. 

With its often simply strummed chords and occasionally plucked strings, the influence of Sam Beam or even early Bright eyes makes sense – especially when the multi tracked and  sometimes harmonised vocals are factored in – somewhere between a delicate whisper and a restrained, mournful croon. But there is also something slightly 80s that sets it apart from these declared inspirations. This is none clearer than in the reverb-soaked, occasionally echoing vocals and squelchy keys on Christmas Morning – which feels more like something inspired by the incidental music of a fantasy fiction film or orientalist soundtrack of that decade than any Iron and Wine album I’ve ever heard. 

Elliott Smith is another declared source of inspiration but there is something more trance-like and hypnotic at play here than his trademark sense of bittersweet melody. The reverberating synth warbles almost feel like a sci fi Sparklehorse which made me ponder perhaps if early Grandaddy was another reference point. There is certainly a dreamlike quality to everything, only broken slightly by the siren-like repetitions within Lightning Bolt – somehow dystopian and infuriating – like an unending, relentless warning. 

Prologue, ironically positioned at the end of the collection, is perhaps its highlight, taking those oscillating drones yet further and offering a delicate but also more direct vocal intimacy, the nylon strings struck with eloquent sophistication. The subtleties of detail are most rich here too, the washes of hazy reverberations sounding somehow warm and ice-cold simultaneously.

Both Christian Linsey and D Catalano seem inspired by visual, cinematic music and cite the eerie calm of empty houses and parking lots as sonic signifiers. This may sound absurd but listening to these beautiful, sad, yearning songs it somehow makes sense. A delightful companion piece to an already arresting album, it offers a glimpse into the possible directions that forthcoming solo albums (or further collaborations) might take. SP Mode (Christian Linsey Version) is well worth a listen; headphones are recommended.

Written by M. A. Welsh (Misophone)