Engineer and Singer Songwriter, Freddie Sipo has been in the music business since 2002 and this album represents his debut album recording, having previously released an EP titled The Black Hills. The album has been a labour of love and no little expense as he gave up his day job to release the creative spirit, as he puts it. Stylistically this is indie with an alternative edge, with nods to Jeff Buckley and others in the intensely emotional singer-songwriter camp. With backing from bassist Drew Moss and twin drummers Max Cuzor and Robi Gonzalez creating interesting tempo changes and polyrhythmic structures, the overall impact is more of a band one (like White Lies) than crooner.
Sipo's high register, sometimes raspy, vocals do take their toll on the ears but the lyrics are thoughtful and the arrangements rich and varied. That richness is apparent from the start in the orchestral layers underpinning an understated vocal and some quietly competent guitar in "He who has ears let him hear". Even more intense and instrumentally complex is the following track "Dare You 1" which expounds on the difficulties of trying to break free of the demands of employment and career to create this album. "Dare You 2" is a chilled-out repetitive chant of "Your sin is ignorance" with simple acoustic guitar accompaniment. "White Light", centred around one of Sipo's dreams, is the most Buckley-ish or Nick Drake-ish of the compositions with its hammering bass drum, aching emotional, but somehow less strident, vocal and keening guitar chords. A disintegration of the sound segues into "A thousand times, no", an indie-rocker with Sipo's searing vocal at its peak before a sudden change in tempo and a wild free-form section lead back into the opening refrain.
"Lover if you lay" is a more melancholic affair with references to Sipo's move out of LA to the Ocean which presaged (and no doubt helped) his work on this album. The Indie sound returns on the following track, "In Skin", a brightly kinetic song with symphonic sounds underpinning the refreshingly mellow vocal. As with many of the songs, there are several pace changes within the composition which add pleasing touches of colour and texture; probably my favourite song on the album. The acoustically backed "Burning Slow" stays in the same gear whilst "See (sic) Change" builds from a hypnotic guitar effect and percussive wash to a psychedelia-tinged song which rises, bolero-like, in tempo and density until a break and guitar motif sidle in and start to deconstruct the repeated chant. At the end there is a destructive blast of sound and 'lost' voices which ends abruptly before the closing piece, "Rise". This funereal lament was the last song to be written and identified for Freddie the end of his cathartic experience with this soulful and sometimes mesmeric album. If you can handle the intense vocals, its worth the trip.
1. He who has ears let him hear
2. Dare You 1
3. Dare You 2
4. White Light
5. A thousand times, no
6. Lover if you lay
7. In Skin
8. Burning Slow
9. See Change