Sean Armstrong - The Technical Times (Rehberge Records) 1

Sean Armstrong – The Technical Times (Rehberge Records)

As the temperatures dip and we’re stuck a season where the world smells of nothing apart from grim, unrelenting capitalism, what a joy it is to have an album of tender flavours delivered by Sean Armstrong adding nuance, depth and a much welcome reality.  

Best known as singer and songwriter for Scottish indie rock band with pop sensibilities Spinning Coin, whose two albums ‘Permo’ and ‘Hyacinth’ are crammed with poetic pleasures, Armstrong’s solo release is a confidently lo-fi affair with his trademark gentle messaging. Born in the Scottish Highlands, Sean cut his musical teeth in Glasgow but now calls the Wedding district of Berlin, where the album was recorded, home.

The Technical Times feels very in step with reality in contemporary times, holding a right mirror up, beautifully melancholic with an effective sparseness. Armstrong’s voice has always seemed to me personally akin to a sweeter, more intimate Neil Young and it’s the album’s more simply arranged songs showing that vocal off to its best effect. The echoey and wistful ‘Playing It Coolhits the tenderest spot, the call and response in ‘Lots of Love’ a pop earworm pushing all the emotion buttons. On delicate album closer ‘Anyway’ the harmonies are a bit upsetting mate, and that is absolutely not a bad thing; anything but. The songs recorded at home ‘as people, sounds and seasons passed by outside’ , a sense of isolation from the other side of the wall comes through. Having said that, this is not an exercise in navel gazing. Armstrong makes use of field recordings from the Italian sea on ‘Island Song’ and Berlin’s crooning frogs on ‘Seven’.   

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‘It’s bad news, really bad news’ he intones on Seven, the guitar and vocal underlying the message. ‘Playing It Cool‘ continues in a similar vein, echoey and wistful. The Technical Times not all straight up ballads, however. Sombre instrumental opener ‘Perspektivaluna’, a sample of Daria Halprin acting in cult classic ‘Zabriskie Point’ lays the foundations for the more dissonant ‘Red Cathedral’, and ‘A Clearing’ has coolly cinematic ambitions.

On The Technical Times, Sean Armstrong might well be reflecting on the darker bleaker side of life, the loneliness it can bring with it but does so in the most beautiful manner heard for a while, and with songs that already feel like dearest friends.  

The Technical Times in true DIY tradition is available on cassette as well as Bandcamp, on Rehberge Records.

Sean Armstronng plays the Doublet in Glasgow on 14 December.


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