Syd Arthur - Apricity album review

A surging fourth LP from Syd Arthur who step out from Canterbury to California.

Syd Arthur - Apricity album artwork

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Syd Arthur claim this album is the distillation of all they’ve been exploring in their music up to now. That’s clearly more than just a throwaway bit of PR, because it really feels that way. Apricity was recorded in the US with engineer Jason Falkner of Jellyfish and it’s more concentrated and focused than their previous releases, both in terms of its structure and production.

Josh Magill has replaced Fred Rother on drums, bringing the number of Magill brothers up to three and giving a more physical and direct approach to the kit. Much was initially made of the fact that Syd Arthur are a progressively inclined group hailing from Canterbury, but they’ve always sounded 21st century. They often play songs in five and seven time, slightly reminiscent of Caravan, but they generally avoid the longueurs associated with those 70s bands. Their punchy, syncopated grooves make them closer to groups such as Eyes And No Eyes, Temples and White Denim, whom they’re supporting in October.

Their best-arranged set of songs, played with pizzazz.

On Apricity, the group’s freewheeling tendencies have been reined in further, which in one sense is a shame as they’re all fine players possessing an impressive intra-band empathy. But the plus factor is that this is their strongest, best-arranged set of songs to date, and played with characteristic pizzazz. Raven Bush plays less violin and more synths and electric piano, giving a smoother, less grainy texture.

The opener, Coal Mine, typically slips around with dropped beats and a lovely mesh of guitar, alongside Bush’s keyboards and violin. And although some of the puzzle pieces seem oddly shaped, they ultimately fit neatly together. Here and throughout, Liam Magill’s sweet, slightly nasal singing carries a feeling of both melancholy and transcendence, making this their most emotionally charged set.

With its musings on life’s brevity, Into Eternity exemplifies this approach, its poignant verse melody beautifully sung, cut with an instrumental chorus with flamboyant drums and some curious chord changes. By contrast, Seraphim is a suitably ecstatic, high-velocity number, with a coda in which the band decelerate dramatically, playing a unison chord sequence in near-metal style.

Sun Rays is the pick of the album, a primary coloured pop melody over rumbling tom-toms, with a gorgeous, irregular guitar and electric piano refrain, Bush’s synths slithering their way into the mix towards the close.

‘Apricity’ is a feeling caused by the warmth of the sun in winter – basically, a yearning for spring. It’s a new word for many, but one that fits the mood of the album perfectly.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.