With a musical projection of Wild Beasts and a voice that is Hayden Thorpe at his most restrained, Sivu unleashes a similar curiosity, sans imperiousness.
Bodies is available at:
The E.P. Bodies is available at:
THE male voice is an instrument and facet, that comes under...
a lot of scrutiny and examination. Before the early '90s, there was some consideration given to a falsetto vocal, or something that possessed femininity. Sensitivity and a sense of delicate devotion have, historically, been seen as unbefitting for male voices. In the early '90s when Grunge was taking off and cementing its majesty, there was nary opportunity or desire to hear the flip side to the genre's ideals: raw and belting vocal lines; lyrical themes of isolation and depression; hard-hitting and throat-slashing riffs. In the era of disco and funk there have always been feline, slinky vocal demonstrations and sexy purrs, but the art of tenderly laying out your voice,- for men- has been a recent discovery. Jeff Buckley is seen as a modern icon, and an inspiration for the modern-day silky-voiced solo artist. Before his career took flight (circa 1993), there were certainly not many male singers that sang the way he did. In terms of sheer potency, there was little competition. In the early '90s the music scene was awash with multitude and variation. It was always down to the women of music to bring the spine-chilling evocations and notes. Post-1993, the likes of Thom Yorke came along, and began to infuse falsetto more commonly into Radiohead's work. The Bends changed the game greatly. It was an album that was earmarked as a pure rock album. Following a concert by Buckley, Yorke reconvened and changed the nature of the album; injecting softer moments such as High and Dry, Fake Plastic Trees and Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was. Consequently, modern bands took note, and the likes of Muse studied Radiohead's mandates and took it upon themselves to be similarly ambitious. Without these moves and events unfolding, it is debatable whether there would be many- if any- modern singers, whom erred towards this type of sound. In 2013 there are a fair few solo singers- as well as bands- that project high-pitched and haunting vocal offerings. By and large there are very few that stop you in your tracks. Night Beds as well as a few others are notable leaders, and the likes of Matt Corby, Patrick Watson and Bon Iver have made some strong and indelible impressions. It is a talent and effect that can yield huge results- if employed considerately. Still is there the tendency to hold on too tightly to Buckley's coat-tails, and forget about originality. Singers such as Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy and Karen Carpenter have exquisite and pure voices, and incorporating elements from female singers into your voice, instead of Buckley and Yorke, leads to equally brilliant results, as well as greater thoughtfulness and original intent. There are a wealth of genius singers that have come and gone, that one can draw shades of influence from. Too often is there a narrow-minded ambition to simply steal from obvious icons; neglecting entirely the obvious pitfalls and depressing negatives of doing this. This decade is showing as much as anything, that there is open-mindedness and a great need for vocal diversity and range, and it is now, as much as any time, that the receptive market awaits for a stunning male voice; one that differs from the norm. and defies expectations.
Essentially every week, there seems to be proclamations made by the media, that 'The Next...' has been discovered. I always shiver slightly, knowing that as soon as comparisons are made, then originality goes out of the window, and you are left wondering what there is to appeal to the market. Strangely, however, there are certain vocal types of sounds, that are undervalued and rare, that, if you hear a couple of artists whom proffer this, then it is not as bridling and irksome as say, hearing the 1,000th 'Next Jeff Buckley/Thom Yorke/Antony Hegarty' etc. I bring up this line of thought, because my featured artist sounds- consciously I assume- like Hayden Thorpe. He (Thorpe) is the lead singer of Wild Beasts: a Yorkshire band that have gained a huge following, and earned a Mercury Prize nomination. Thorpe- when their debut Limbo, Panto was released- was seen as a curious oddity. The voice of this man was something oddly titillating, but quite frightening. Thorpe is a tenor and countertenor, and would infuse songs with grunts, wild yelps, growling, wild abandon, as well as beauty too. It was a divisive trait that split critics early on. When Two Dancers arrived, praise was heaped as the voice was temporised to an extent, but lost none of its immediacy and majesty. It is a rare voice to be heard, and one that has not been replicated by any artist since... until now. It is an obvious influence for Sivu, a Finnish-named, St. Ives-based musician; James Page to his friends and family. He is a 24-year-old whom has garnered comparisons as well to Gotye. It is not just the tones of Hayden Thorpe that rule your mind, but also there is a great deal of Wild Beasts' music to be heard too. Similar guitar mixtures and sonic resemblances can be found, leading The Guardian to dub Sivu as "a one-man Wild Beasts". He is a personable and likeable individual with a sharp eye for memorable lyrics. He is an agnostic but flavours many of his tracks with religious imagery. I feel, with regards to new music, you almost have to factor out everything the media says about them. The female artists get referred to as 'The New Adele/Mariah Carey/Christina Aguilera' whilst men tends to get the Jeff Buckley, Gotye and Alex Turner treatment. As annoying and predictable as this is, you have to hear the music on its own merits and form your own opinions. His 4-track E.P. has just been released (yesterday in fact), and whilst God Speaks In Tongues may have obvious influences, its beauty and punch will appeal to those who care not for any talk of religion or God. The rest of the tracks have an equal beauty, but it is Bodies that elicits the sweetest and headiest scents and smokes.
From the first few seconds, there is a calming and breezy haze to the music. The electronic strings arpeggio, cascade and ruminate; there is a lot of Two Dancers' charm and edges, as well as a lot of elements that our the author's alone. There are theological and questions of the nature of our existence that are offered up. Early on, Sivu states that "We're just bodies"; saying that we all find flaws. Everything seems to be built around very personable events. You get the sense that a breakdown of love or a failed romance enforces the themes that Bodies projects. Whilst the nature of being and the examination of life in all its fragility are being tended to, underneath there seems to be some anxiety and haunted memories. As much as anything, it is the music itself that provides some of the biggest focus. There is a constant and dominant percussive beat that can be detected through the early stages; it is high in the mix and threatens to overwhelm the vocal; the shimmering guitar plays beautifully in the back; strumming with bright colours before retracting and returning once more. An unnamed devotee keeps "begging me to say", and it is clear that there is turmoil and turbulence afoot. Sivu's voice keeps restrained and strong; it distils Thorpe's essence and smooth out the 'rough' edges. When the pace quickens, and "The animals walking two by two" is announced, the atmosphere and shivers augment. Vocals are doubled and layered, and there is a choral power and beauty. It is at this point that your mind is taken away from the Beasts, and towards bands such as The Klaxons; even elements of Radiohead can be detected. It is not done in any obvious way: little flecks here and there, but it is when our protagonist ups the ante, that the biggest shivers are elicited. Ghostly Radiohead Nude/Kid A slices are mixed and blended around exciting and tense percussion: the result of which is a definite quickening of pulse and heart rate. Our hero continues the tale of broken hearts and tense days, as his lover wants him to stay but he says he has to go. "The tide is dragging us away", it is said, as once again the animals walk two by two; the atmosphere is drenched in sound and it is wondered whether our protagonist, as well as his unnamed paramour will ever find dry land. The structure of the song is quite unexpected as well. It is not just consistent of verse-chorus-verse, with little surprise between. Sivu adds vocal passages with ethereal wonder, as well as musical breaks which spark with life and intrigue. He understand the importance of emotional effect as well as momentum. Never do you have much of a chance for breath; the floods and waves that are mentioned regularly, are essentially conveyed in the pace and effect of the track: gasping for air is not an option. Musically, the track earns its stripes for being constantly innovative. Orchestral potentiality blends with indie touches and Sigur Ros-style otherworldliness. Overall you are taken aback by the relentless perseverance and force of the track, and as captured as much by the composition as you are by the vocal itself. Sivu is a constantly impressive player, and his vocal is focused, touching and emotive when it needs to be; seamlessly matching the musical mood, and shifting and snaking throughout the track.
There are not too many negatives to offer up. There are times- particular in the first minute- where a lot of Hayden Thorpe's voice can be heard; and similarly Wild Beasts' musical influence can be heard quite clearly. As they are a band that many are still not aware of, then it is not an obvious issue, but something that many will pick up on. Also some of the words are hard to decipher, and you have to strain your ears to pick up on them. This occurs when the vocal is more composed and Thorpe-esque; annunciation and projection are key for Thorpe, even during Limbo, Panto's wildest moments, and the force of the percussion drowns a lot of Sivu's words out. That said this happens are irregular intervals and does not dampen your experience. Those are the only minuses I can point at, and the abiding impression is one of being overwhelmed and taken aback. The lyrics are sharp and thought-provoking and summon up some vivid- and often frightening- images in your mind. The employment of religious themes work very well: there is a perfect balance of necessity and subtlety. Sivu's voice is highly mobile and can go from a coo to a passionate belt with the drop of a hat, and is a facet that adds touches of gold to the song. He is clearly a vocalist whom will be talked about for a while. So tempting is the need to slot into that Buckley/Yorke mould: all spine-chilling falsetto-cum-vibrato quivers, that someone who differs from that already wins your vote. Sivu instead can unleash tenor shades that tremble with beauty, but one suspects that he could also do pretty much anything with his voice: such is its depth and breadth. As much as anything, the composition is original and striking. Twinkling and flowing guitar lines interact with thudding percussion and stirring orchestral evocations. In terms of subject, love, romance and uncertainty are at the forefront, but are not clichéd or stereotyped in any way. Our author writes from a very personal place and manages to make his thoughts very different and exciting. There are influences of '60s masters such as Dylan and Cohen in the more poetic moments, and that in itself is not something that is often said. I will seek the E.P. out and digest its every sound and thought. I am always hungry to hear what young artists of today are thinking, and what direction they want to take. Sivu has released material before, and has always been greeted by excitement and fervent appreciation and devotion. Bodies is a natural forward step, as well as something that sounds like perfectly natural, given what he has produced before. Whether there is an album due next year, or another E.P., that is up to him; but in an industry where young U.K. talent rarely impresses when compared to the band market, here is a name that will go some way to winning back ground. On a sunny day, where one is in need of relaxation, excitement and something that inspires you, then have no fear:
BODIES does just that.