Did you ever wonder what would happen if Rhye, Haux, and Bon Iver made music together? Well, me neither, I didn’t dare dream it. But it’s here, and it’s as beautiful as you can think.
Meet Arliston, a duo from London. Jack Ratcliffe and George Hasbury formed Arliston back in 2018 to create gorgeous, effervescent, and airy, textured music that oozes at once with melancholy and light. Even in the Shade is the duo’s second EP of 2022, after they dropped The Ground Might Disappear earlier. Even in the Shade contains 5 immaculately written, sung, and produced gems. Of different colors, styles, and shapes, the five songs on this release each live within their own spheres, similar in aesthetic and direction, they are 5 consistently unique and tasteful songs.
Leaning heavily on the styles of Bon Iver and Haux in their predominantly acoustic and gentle songwriting, with a more streamlined and electronic production that recalls the music of SYML to mind. The mixing and mastering of Even in the Shade have been executed by Brett Shaw, whose resume includes work with Foals and Florence + the Machine. So, naturally, nothing less than immaculate quality was expected. Tombstone Teeth is a harrowingly beautiful acoustic stunner that opens the record. Dense with textures of atmospheric pads and reverbs, the gentle composition and the minimal arrangement are beautifully augmented with the airiness of the vibes. Made whole by a nuanced vocal part that ebbs and flows in dynamics and melody. TV Dinner summons the spirit of Ben Howard’s intricate acoustic arrangements, and Bon Iver’s orchestrated vocal tapestries. A minimal composition, a sparse beat, and an effortless vocal melody work together to craft a unique character to this stand-out song.
Sydenham Place has a quirky, rhythmic piano motif that’s got a jumpy rhythm that lends itself to the song’s playful, jubilant feel. With a baritone vocal part that’s in control, it’s a song that puts its few, rich elements proudly in the forefront, for an instant modern classic that would compare favorably with pioneers of this genre, whom this song was maybe an imitation of. Mothering is a heartfelt stunner. Airy, delicate, and dazzling. With electronic stuttering, and a nuanced bass part and a pronounced vocal performance with rich harmonies. The beats pick up near the end with claps that quickly recede in a moment of euphoric joy amidst the calm connectedness of the rest of the music. Hold My Wine has a characterful guitar part and a compelling, electronic beat. The vocals here are perhaps the most forefront and center in the whole EP, with a charismatic melody and delivery that’s effortless, yet memorable.
Arliston’s Even in the Shade is one of the easiest and most chilling listens I’m sure I’ll have for a long while. The duo’s sound is unique in the range of artists they remind me of, while being decidedly their own thing. As a lover of this type of music, that’s washed-out, gentle, and layered with ambiance and air, I’ll find no difficulty returning to this album over and over again, and I’ll find even less difficulty recommending it to friends.