Guy Sigsworth: STET

STET is the new album by UK producer, composer and musician Guy Sigsworth. In fact, it’s his first solo album and he is better known for his contributions to the work of other artists. The list is a very long one and includes a wide variety of musicians from Talvin Singh to Imogen Heap and from Bjork to Madonna. He came to Okinawa in 2015 and gave a concert with Norway’s Kate Havnevik and has maintained a long interest in Okinawan music.

This new 16 track album contains a mix of songs and instrumentals. All the music is composed by Sigsworth who plays celesta, clavichord, piano, triangles, ring modulator and synthesiser. There are also some co-written songs including three with Anil Sebastian, who also sings, and one with Okinawa’s Mika Uchizato.

What does it all sound like? Well, STET is viewed by Guy Sigsworth as a modern ‘classical’ album with underlying Ryukyuan influences. On the one hand it is probably best listened to in its entirety as a complete album as the tracks evolve to create a distinctly atmospheric musical journey but there are also some standout songs that hold their own with the very best in pop music.

The album begins with ‘Sing’ a track that builds gradually with the introduction of a vocal and a melody that stops, starts and turns unexpectedly in the manner of the band Dirty Projectors. It’s followed by the best pure pop track on the album ‘Barely Breaking Even’ with a vocal by Anil Sebastian. He sings again on ‘Lydian’ a song that could have escaped from Bjork’s Vespertine.

There are hints of and excursions into pop, jazz, classical, electronica and experimental music but nothing gets too cluttered or unfocused and the production (naturally by Sigsworth) is beautifully clear and precise. And just when the instrumental tracks seem in danger of becoming a little too ambient we are presented with ‘Night Song’ a piano-led composition with a wonderfully sad and haunting melody that sounds as if it should be on a movie soundtrack.

The Okinawan influence is signalled by ‘Nirai Kanai’ and comes fully into its own on the two final tracks. These are the instrumental ‘Mono No Aware’ and the song ‘Shurayo’ with lyrics in Uchinaguchi by Mika Uchizato but sung here by British singer and long-term Sigsworth collaborator Imogen Heap.

‘Mono No Aware’ plays with light and shade, and the jazzy discord is juxtaposed with rich melody and a very Okinawan feel. Better still – and probably the outstanding track on the album – is its final song ‘Shurayo’. It could all have gone perilously badly but Imogen Heap does a great job with the Okinawan vocal while the stirring addition of cello and violin to Sigsworth’s superb melody fittingly ends the album on a high note. (‘Shurayo’ and another song co-written with Uchizato is planned for separate release as an EP with Mika’s original vocals).

Because of its breadth and ambition this could have been a risky undertaking but STET overcomes the potential pitfalls with style.

STET will be released by Mercury KX on 7th June.


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