Dan Lyth and the Euphrates - Benthic Lines
- Nicola Meighan
- 8 July 2014
An album of minimalist and intoxicating chamber-pop and electronica, recorded entirely outdoors
‘I think some part of me took perverse pleasure in the thought of having to undergo some real physical exertion to make this record,’ says Dunfermline singer/songwriter and sonic topographer Dan Lyth of his debut album Benthic Lines, and he puts his music where his mouth is. Five years in the making, this LP (and accompanying book) is a hugely ambitious – and laborious – undertaking.
It straddles, evokes and excavates continents (Lyth made field recordings in Morocco, Australia, Turkey, Uganda and Fife); summons the historic and the modern (it references far-flung mythology, Biblical imagery and technology); and taps into bucolic landscapes, psychic states and urban sprawls.
At the disc’s heart is Lyth’s overriding (and unwieldy) goal: to create an album recorded entirely outdoors – from al fresco piano recitals to peat bog ambience; from high streets through forests, hillsides and quarries; from rooftops to car parks and church ruins to boats. In doing so, he raises some excellent, and timely, questions, about how music and the physical environment (and its elements, and its unknown quantities) can interact, in contrast to this age of bedroom recording, cyber-realms and digital manipulation.
What’s most impressive about this feat, however, is not that Lyth achieved his objective (although that is admirable enough), but that such a concept, and effort, never gets in the way of the music: Lyth’s unadorned psalms are minimalist and intoxicating, but they’re never bogged down or distracted by the process.
Even without Lyth’s singular vision, or his need to invest intensive physical effort into his work, his organic electronica and chamber-pop hymns would still stand out. The album variously evokes Andrew Bird (‘Four Creatures’, ‘How It Happened’), Steve Reich (‘Super Nature’) and Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett (‘We Were Bones and We Were Meat’); but mainly it sounds just like Lyth, and the great outdoors. That it does so with such subtle aplomb is something to treasure, and applaud.