Andrew Wyatt – Descender (album) (Downtown Records)


What a quirky little record this is…

‘Descender’ is the debut album from Andrew Wyatt, better known as the front man in Swedish indie electro-pop band Miike Snow. Listeners might be surprised to find that Wyatt’s debut shares very little in common with Miike Snow and is in fact completely devoid of any of the slick electronic, glossy pop hooks that characterise much of their music.

Written, produced and orchestrated by Wyatt himself, ‘Descender’ features 9 songs and clocks in at just under 30 minutes. Don’t be fooled by the short duration though – there’s a hell of a lot going on here. In terms of arrangement, melody and instrumentation, ‘Descender’ is a complex one. Although the album is definitely melodic, it requires (and deserves) multiple spins to fully absorb and for the hooks to stay put.

Essentially, we hear two major influences at play on ‘Descender’ – The Beatles circa ‘Revolver‘ and David Bowie circa ‘Space Oddity’, with hints of Tame Impala. Yes, ‘Descender’ is a rather trippy affair. If further proof is required of the Miike Snow frontman’s embrace of the current psychedelia revival, take a look at Andrew Wyatt’s Twitter to see a photo of Wyatt holding up a TOY t-shirt.

The experimental and weighty opening track “Horse Latitudes” immediately introduces the listener to the album’s 75-piece philharmonic orchestra, a characteristic that dominates ‘Descender’. No verse, no chorus, Wyatt’s short-lived vocals are introduced at 0:35 and disappear approximately 60 seconds later giving way to an orchestral loop.

“Harlem Boyzz” gets things going with its brilliant and quirky pop complete with Bee-Gees like falsetto set against its genuinely vintage sounding production. Likewise, “Cluster Subs”, an album highlight, is a psychedelic joy. Check out the melody that occurs around 1:30 – 1:45, which sounds like the soundtrack to a Disney fantasy. “She’s Changed” seamlessly continues but within 90 seconds steers the album deeper into experimental territory.

More than any other track, first single and fellow album highlight, “…And Septimus” (read our review) showcases Wyatt’s ability to combine melody and hooks with psychedelic quirks.

With the exception of the tripped out instrumental that is “Descender (Death of 1000 Cuts)”, which would be at home on Scott Walker’s ‘Bish Bosch’, three of the album’s last four tracks are the most straight-forward and cohesive. The gorgeous Beatles-esque “It Won’t Let You Go”, which despite its linear structure still manages to conjure psychedelic induced fantasies, the charming and peculiar “In Paris They Know How To Build A Moment”, and “There Is Spring” all aid in making the album more immediate and conventional.

A thoroughly enjoyable record, ‘Descender’ was released digitally on 16 April, 2013 via Downtown Records and will be released physically on 6 May, 2013. Hat’s off to Downtown Records who have released two of this year’s most unique records: Andrew Wyatt’s ‘Descender’ and Port St. Willow’s ‘ ‘Holiday’.

Listen to “…and Septimus” below: