EP REVIEW: Once Upon a Dead Man – Concepts and Phenomena
Is there anything the Simpson family can’t do? Busted, Fightstar, Brigade, Union Sound Set, More Dangerous Animal… the three brothers’ CVs must put them up there as one of the most productive musical families around, and that’s without us mentioning their solo projects. So when Charlie, Will and Edd, along with old friend Simon Britcliffe, announced that they would be recording music together as Once Upon a Dead Man, it didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone: this was always going to be more about when than if.
It’s clear from the beginning that Concepts and Phenomena is the product of four guys who know each other inside out, who are completely comfortable with each other’s styles. Vocals and instruments are shared by the four-piece across the whole EP, and their musical style evolved organically out of a desire to break the mould and try something new. That something: electronica.
Every track is layered with synths, programming and drum machines, something that none of the guys have ever really used much of before. Even then, the short-player is eclectic in its sound. The opening two tracks are bold, snappy, in-your-face electropop in the vein of CHVRCHES, while Rush is all relaxed indietronica and delicate vocal harmonies. But it’s the final two tracks that really stand out. A More Ordinary Time is one extreme, brooding and atmospheric with Will‘s melancholic lyrics draped over twitchy electronics and processed drums. The EP’s best track however is its last. The epic Threads is a mix of The Postal Service‘s chilled electro with the sweeping post-rock of Edd‘s Union Sound Set, building layer on layer of instrumentation to a soaring climax before retreating again and ending in shimmering electronics and delicate, echoing guitar.
This short-player has been a long time coming for the Simpson brothers, but it’s definitely been worth the wait. Free from record labels and any significant levels of expectation, Once Upon a Dead Man have produced an EP that shows they don’t just work with guitars, and adds another string to their bows. As if they needed any more.
Standout Track: Threads
For Fans Of: The Postal Service, Union Sound Set, The American Analog Set
Written By: Josh Prentice