Brighton’s Lewis Duffy, AKA Shit Creek, has probably released the album of the summer. Every summer has one. It just does. Sometimes it’s a nationwide thing, 2001 is was soundtracked by the first Gorillaz album and especially Soulchild’s remix of ‘19/2000’, and other times it’s a personal tip, Wayne Smith’s ‘Under Me Sleng Teng’ soundtracked the first summer I went to carnival. 2019 feels like another personal one.
From the bright and vivid artwork, also by Duffy, you know this is going to be an ethereal affair.
Musically Ythlaf is a collection of lo-fi post-psych drones that create a feeling of constant flux and nothing is tangible. Lurid shapes and wisps of colour gracefully dance past, and around us, as they float from the speakers. Opening track ‘Amalfitano Dreams of Boris Yeltsin’ is 10 and a half minutes of layered scratchy strings, woozy loops and wind instruments that create gentle maelstroms. ‘The Hole in the Sky Where the Light Comes in’ continues the motifs from the opener, but plays around with panning, making you check the connection of your headphones and speaker cables. This level of playfulness shows that Shit Creek are looking at the bigger picture, than just “This sounds wonky and far out”. It also shows Duffy has a sense of humour. Final track ‘Cardboard Colour Field’ goes back to the original vibe of ‘Amalfitano Dreams of Boris Yeltsin’, but the strings are harsher, more tonal than on the opener. It is also the first track where vocals, well discernible vocals, are front and centre. For the most they feel like meditative drones rather than lyrics, but their emotional content is as blatant as any couplets recited from the back of a cigarette pack/Waitrose receipt.
After listening to Ythlaf, the artwork gives you all the clues you need. The long streaks of dazzling colour match the colourful, and melodramatic, palate Duffy uses so elegantly. You can see where he’s used his fingers to get the desired effect; the same is true of the music. He manipulates the strings and loops in a way that reminds you of the iridescent creatures that float and drift in the murky deep, giving off throbs of dazzling luminescence and then vanishing back into the dank. Of course there is nothing dank on Ythlaf, but as soon as the loop appears, it gracefully sinks back into the radiant throng.
This is an album that works incredibly well played at full volume while you sit and just absorb it, as well as playing while commuting or doing life admin at home. Each time you play it, you will find a new cranny or hook that hitherto wasn’t apparent. And this is its true charm. Eventually it’ll be that old friend you don’t see every often, but when you do you’ll be reminded of something long forgotten that makes you remember why you liked them in the first place.
Ythlaf is out now on Come To Brazil.