Just like the British weather forecast, music collaborations can be regarded as somewhat unpredictable. England has seen its fair share of collaborations – some as fine as the combined musical genius of Miles Kane and Alex Turner in The Last Shadow Puppets; others as haunting as that awkward time when Dappy met Brian May.
Britain’s newest pairing, onDeadWaves, draws together the talents of Polly Scattergood and James Chapman (also known as Maps) in a mesmerising mid-point of blues, indie and electronica. Both have already established successful music careers: a nomination for a Mercury Music Prize for Chapman, for Scattergood, two studio albums with strong ratings from a number of highly-acclaimed critics. Together, however, they grasp new sounds and styles, rising to even greater heights.
The debut album, On Dead Waves, is what summer sounds like. Chapman’s husky slurs with Scattergood’s delicate yet gripping, vocals recreate the tranquil evenings the duo spent writing their music together in the English countryside. Detached lyrics and consistent rhythm is what makes this an easy-listening album, whilst Chapman’s infusion of synths and various electronic elements keep the album’s listeners intrigued.
“California” is the most upbeat and pulsing of the tracks, with a varied use of percussion, synths and electric guitar throughout. The song offers a sense of both excitement and adventure–perhaps from the prospect of escape from British weather to Californian sunshine. Meanwhile, Scattergood’s vocals in “Hollow” could be described as a modern twist of Bob Dylan, and the short, disjointed lyrics in “Blackbird” can be found similar to those of Dire Straits – My dreams are like summer. Yours are like spring. Let’s sleep until sunrise. Sing blackbird sing.
Electronic sounds are not overwhelming, but carefully placed and varied across the album. Chapman’s techno-abilities shine by themselves, with the guitar and with his and Scattergood’s vocals. Most striking, however, are the duo’s voices, which are not drowned out by electronica, nor dominant drums or excessive guitar, but rather, intrigue us into hearing the stories that these songwriters tell.
Truly, onDeadWaves has anything but dead waves. From eerie musings to feel-good rhythms, confident guitar riffs to electronica explosions, lyrics that remain etched in your thoughts for days – this album has it all. On Dead Waves is an album of intimate songs, to be shared with friends this summer.
It seems that the new duo’s debut album is compiled of just snippets of the wide-range of what they can offer – and we’re looking forward to more.