Matthew And The Atlas
Morning Dancer is the third album from Matthew and the Atlas, the project led by British songwriter Matt Hegarty.
Across Hegarty's first two LPs (Other Rivers and Temple) and the four stripped back EPs that preceded and followed them, he has traversed a range of musical territories from classic acoustic folk, to dramatic synth-laden electronica, and urgent guitar led alt-rock. The common thread has been a songwriting style that marries a subtle melodic sensibility with lyrics full of natural imagery and dark emotional heft - all delivered in his striking and distinctive vocal. In the process Hegarty has quietly built a major cult following in Europe and the US, which has seen Q magazine dub him the "British Bon Iver".
As part of the Communion Records family (Matthew and The Atlas’ debut EP was the label’s first ever release) Hegarty toured his early releases extensively and internationally with the likes of Mumford and Sons, Bear’s Den, Civil Wars and others around Europe and the US. That early touring, and a passionate word-of-mouth fan base, has taken Hegarty’s music around the world and close to 100m streams across all his releases.
Armed with a collection of new songs in the second half of 2018, Hegarty found his way to Bristol-based producer Ali Chant (Perfume Genius, Youth Lagoon, Gruff Rhys). They clicked immediately, and recorded and mixed Morning Dancer in an intensive six-week stint, which saw Hegarty recording for the first time with his full five-piece touring band. The record has familiar elements - the energy and intensity of the live show, stripped and delicate confessional moments, and touches of the synth heavy drama that characterized his debut. To that mix, Chant and Hegarty have added flourishes of brass and woodwind and a playful looseness to the production and arrangements that takes the songs and Hegarty’s voice to a new place altogether.
At SXSW 2015, aged just 25, Brian Holl was hit by a panic attack that would act as the catalyst for one of the most difficult periods of his young life.
Brian had already achieved a great deal as one half of electronic-folk duo Foreign Fields - national tours, festival appearances, releasing a critically-acclaimed debut album - but anxiety fueled by self-
doubt, estimations, measuring up and counting trophies had finally reached tipping point.
What happened next was bravely and honestly exposed in Foreign Fields sophomore record ‘Take Cover’ which ended with the first glimmer of hope since that fateful night. Fast forward two years and Brian is ready to continue the story with his first solo release under the name Boy Bjorn.
Born out of a desire to capture moments lost Boy Bjorn’s debut album, ‘Mistaken Animals’, is full of caricatures and stories from the past.
Relationships with family members lost too soon. Beauty in the mundane that’s forgotten as knowledge grows. With a new-found clarity of thought, Brian has used this nostalgic exploration of the past to reflect upon and change the way he lives his life today.
This traveling between the periods of time that sit either side of his attack and the lessons he’s taken along the way are at the core of ‘Mistaken Animals’. There’s a conversational feel to the lyrics with the discussion seemingly taking place between his younger self and the man he is today.
The music also jumps between two separate worlds – at times it is bewildering and washy with multiple drum samples stacked on top of synth layers all fighting to break through the winner whilst in other moments it is intricate and solemn. Ultimately this record feels like a moment of rebirth for Holl – both musically and personally.
It’s accepting the past and learning from it. It’s taking a breath and seeing clearly for the first time. It’s deconstruction and reconstruction.