Shovels Beat The Sun – Sky Wires (BITROT, 2016)


The atmosphere is a place of tremendous dynamism and power, eternally restless and shifting. Its organically variable output feels almost human at times: today calm and tranquil, contented; tomorrow, dark and blustery and harsh, angry. It’s nothing more than personification, projection of humanity on something unconscious and unthinking, but that doesn’t make it unrelatable. This is the quite real human mirror that Sky Wires holds to the sky.

We’re launched straight into grey miasma with opener “Iodine”, synth drone harshness seeping into our senses immediately. The air holds a tang, a distinctive oceanic saltiness that saturates the delicate nasal linings, cold and unforgiving. Everything’s fraught and menacing, flat light radiating off of the opaquely churning surface water, the sea dark and slick in its obviously growing fury. Every moment, it gains mass, punishing us in its flickering masses of textural imposition.

“Everything Is Not Alright”, clearly, the world around us transmuting into deep and impenetrable guitar drones, sustained chords bearing down upon the listener like the black underbelly of a fearsome cumulonimbus. Suggestions of drones seem to swim just below the damaged surface, an abyssal depth of emotion extending out far beyond its churning base of water vapour as though we can only see and touch a minute fraction of its thoughts and feelings. The aural smothering is just facade though, attention seeking; the music dips and wanes and invites us to wave our hands and harmlessly blow it apart, dissipate the gruff exterior and drift into its misty, enigmatic, yet needy interior.

The suspense reaches its peak in the title track as things get a little more aloof, less direct, the drones retreating now to a shimmering distance filled with a complex visage of textures. There’s suspense in the almost human coos, an elemental wist and sense of yearning hovering in the glowing cellos; there’s change here, necessary linkages being burned apart as new light begins to fray its cloudy tendrils with hope.

It reveals a changed scene in the final piece, “1987”, a calm seascape that glows under the light of a new day established by genteel strokes of sustained cello and guitar. It’s gauzy and still a little unsteady on its feet as its humming tones are echoed back to itself in little reflections, the sight of its past hardships still bouncing around internally, but they’re overcome. Gradually, almost before you know it, a steady line of drone insistence overwrites memory, all thoughts and regrets displaced by its advancing mass, a plane tearing us away from the turbulence behind or a liner powering us out into the glassy open water away from the dangerous coastline.

The sky always clears, the sea always calms: there’s transience in even the biggest and most overwhelming things in the world. They are overcome simply by waiting and, when it’s over, you’ll be rewarded with the vast beauty and grandeur of the closer as you are here, with all the clarity and hope and love that it exudes.