A highlight of this album’s tenderness and beauty is the triptych of ‘The Sun’ parts I, II and III. The first movement features Heathcliff and a clean guitar strum pleading to be heard, and the third movement, which closes the album, is a beautiful coalescence of Snakadaktal’s best attributes: naivety, texture, intelligence, and beauty.
Weightlessness is a hell of a feeling, whether it is physical (floating) or metaphorical (transcendence). Running with the duality of this adjective Snakadaktal have released a debut album that, firstly, sonically flows with an effortless style that is so well-produced it immediately contemporises them with UK megastars The xx. Secondly, the album’s title and cover art, depicting a grey sea, touches upon that feeling of weightlessness and expansive wonder that is deeply imbued in the lyrical depth and vocal deliveries of Phoebe Cockburn and Sean Heathcliff.
This album is a winner on so many levels, with the two first releases from the album, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Hung On Tight’, as powerful as they are polarised.
Cockburn’s vocals on ‘Ghost’ seem to have relaxed somewhat from Snakadaktal’s 2011 debut EP, with her voice losing that youthful twang and now settling in somewhere between Tori Amos and Kate Bush. Lyrically, the song seems steeped in painful regret and begrudging acceptance: “We spun around trying to make sense of our luck… ghost, ghost”. The musical backing to this song is sparse yet profound. Softly fingered and icy six-string is abused by jarring riffage from the lead guitar, reminiscent of the 1980s production of Dire Straits and more recently Bon Iver on Bon Iver.
The single ‘Hung On Tight’burst into our media channels the same week Snakadaktal were set to play Splendour, and with its dramatic film clip and vivid lyrical storytelling the song has already made quite the impact. Musically, the song is dissimilar to ‘Ghost’ – while still having the ethereal edge, ‘Hung On Tight’drives forward with compelling inexorability like a boxer pulling themself off the mat only to then deliver the winning punch. Heathcliff’s vocals are stirring and the lyrics well chosen. Stylistically he too seems to have retrained himself somewhat since the band’s earlier days when at times he came off a little too Matt Corby.
‘Feel The Ocean Hold Me Under’diverges from that restraint, as the claustrophobic allusion of the title is mirrored musically; skittering drums colliding with cluttered guitar and synth lines. I am sure the cacophonous rhythms at work well live but on this album, coming in at track six, they brutalise the mellowed listener. However, in an album full of so much beauty, maybe the chaos of ‘Feel The Ocean’is necessary.
BY DENVER MAXX
Sleep In The Water is out now through I Oh You/Liberation.