C Duncan‘s debut album Architect was nominated for the 2015 Mercury Music Prize, and his music was featured in Waterloo Road. But the Glasgow-born composer has hardly rested on his laurels since.
Just over a year later Christopher is back with the follow-up, The Midnight Sun. Like its predecessor, it was recorded entirely in his flat. “Towards the end of recording Architect my production skills had developed, and I wanted to put them to the test on another record,” he recalls. “I’m still very much in the mind-set that working alone from home is the best way to create music – for me anyway. I upgraded my home setup for The Midnight Sun to give it a much cleaner sound. Unlike Architect, which was a big mix of different genres, the new album is much more coherent and concise sonically.”
Ahead of the release of The Midnight Sun, C Duncan delved into his musical consciousness for the albums that have influenced him most for his This Music Made Me…
Henryk Górecki – Symphony No. 3 Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Dawn Upshaw, London Sinfonietta
This is a beautifully minimal yet emotional piece of work. Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is one of Gorecki’s finest pieces, split into three movements, it is very static and set around the words a 15th-century Polish Lament sung by a soprano (Dawn Upshaw).
When I first heard it I was studying and writing a lot of very intentionally complex music and it was really refreshing to hear a piece as simplistic and heartfelt as this written by a contemporary composer.
It had a huge impact on my approach to writing from then on – sometimes less is more.
I bought this album along with Debut when I was 12 years old having heard Venus As A Boy on the radio. I quite liked Debut at the time, but I didn’t really understand this album so I put it aside.
Three years later I went back and discovered how utterly amazing an album it was. I have been listening to it on and off since and as I get older it means more to me with every listen.
It is such an exultant and beautifully intimate piece of work.
Ravel – Complete Piano Works, Vlado Perlemuter
I was so excited when I got to the stage in my piano playing that I could even attempt to play Ravel. Of course I failed and it sounded like a big dreamy mess, but I felt I had achieved something.
Maurice Ravel is a favourite of mine and his music is almost otherworldly whilst maintaining a grittiness to it. This recording of his piano works is a particularly good one.
Because I am so into these piano works I am very picky when it comes to performances, and Vlado Perlemuter really does it for me. The tempos are just right and he lets certain melodies sing.
Joni Mitchell – Song To A Seagull
As much as I love Blue as an album, this one has always had a special place in my heart.
Even though it is Joni Mitchell’s first album, her songwriting is as good as ever, full of folksy joy and melancholia.
June Christy has really quite an amazing voice. It has a lot of character and she uses these trills every now and then which really colours her sound.
This aspect is actually something that inspired my singing, and which I use in a lot of my own music.
The reason I’ve chosen a best of is because she has too many good songs to choose from. Listen to it all (if you like smooth female crooners).
This was one of the first electronic albums that I bought.
I was at boarding school at the time and had just discovered iTunes, so I would spend a lot of my time listening to 30 second previews of songs by artists I had never come across.
I was instantly hooked on The Knife when I heard this.
I came to Beach House late. They had just released Bloom when I first heard them.
I was instantly entranced and worked my way backwards through their back catalogue.
There is a simplistic beauty to this album which has a lugubrious and spacious quality, and the listener is carried from song to song by Victoria Legrand’s effortlessly breezy voice and somber melodies.
Cocteau Twins – Heaven Or Las Vegas
Cocteau Twins are one of my all time favourite bands. I was introduced to them by my composition teacher when I was at university.
Hailing from Grangemouth in Stirlingshire, originally a port town and now home to one of the largest oil refineries in Europe, the Cocteau Twins’ music couldn’t reflect this less.
Their music is dreamy and romantic, ethereal and full of mystery, unlike their smoggy and industrial hometown. Heaven Or Las Vegas for me is the best example of their work.
I was already a big fan of Radiohead before this album came out. It was released whilst I was on a family holiday in Normandy where I listened to it on repeat.
I love how varied an album it is – almost a mixture of everything they had previously done with a slightly earthier tone.
Every time I’m in Normandy now I listen to this album and it reminds me of my summers spent there as a teen.
Connan Mockasin – Forever Dolphin Love
Recording all my music from home, there are so many lo-fi/bedroom musician albums that have really inspired and influenced me: Ariel Pink, Toro y Moi, Geneva Jacuzzi, R.Stevie Moore.
But this album by Connan Mockasin really jumped out at me. It’s a very alien sounding record and his voice is really something to behold.
He doesn’t stick to any songwriting conventions which makes his sound so unique.
C Duncan’s album The Midnight Sun is out on 7 October through FatCat. Tour dates and further information can be found here.