When Dutch Uncles – now affectionately known only as D’Uncles – first released O Shudder back in 2015, it became patently apparent that the Stockport quartet were rather far removed from their so-called ‘contemporaries’. Their ideas bigger, its songs brighter, Duran Duran melodrama wantoned with skittish XTC moments and the eternal suavity of David Sylvian’s Japan to create what remains – for me, at least – an essential album. But it was, as has been so much of their catalogue, also fringed with neo-classical nuance; and as bassist and ‘principal composer’ Robin Richards puts out Toompea, it’s clear where, or who, this comes from.
Lifted from his début solo EP, Castel, the piece may take its title from a hill in Tallinn, but it takes its cues from Michael Nyman, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, and the like. A forbidding, These New Puritanical leitmotif gets things going, moving into more serene territory somewhere around the one-minute mark as strings are dextrously interwoven into the piece; a thumping kick drum comes and goes, and really comes into its own as Toompea crescendoes. Does it yearn for Duncan Wallis’ highly pliable vocal? Perhaps – for all of a minute, it sounds not dissimilar to much of O Shudder – although this audacious introduction to the quite incredible Castel should, much like Toompea itself, stand tall and never be overshadowed by prior successes.
Castel is available from December 6th via PRAH Recordings.