Denizen of the Derry jazz scene, Neil Burns, AKA Comrade Hat, has today released his enthralling new album, Old Gods, Vol. 1.
We covered Comrade Hat’s most recent single, ‘Deep Sleep’ a few weeks ago. One of the released singles to feature on the album, along with standout tracks ‘Summer of Glove’, ‘Whatever You Do’, and ‘Cracking The Code’, ‘Deep Sleep’ showcases as well as any previous release the knack for making great music Burns has.
Of course, creating great music is nothing new for Burns. In recent years he has released three albums: Follow The Dawn, Winter Songs, and Old Amsterdam. Interestingly, Old Gods, Vol. 1 may have never been had 2020 not intervened. Just as Burns was moving in a more band oriented direction, he found himself turning to the vaults, finding a large quantity of unfinished and unreleased tracks. Isolated and forced to be creative, he developed these while also putting down new pieces. The result is a rich and varied suite of songs that feels cohesive against the odds – the first of two volumes of Old Gods set for release this year. Guided by intuition, the first installment features his most intimate and introspective work to date, alongside ambitious, layered productions.
“More than ever I trusted the process and found that motifs emerged organically. Burns said. “In particular, I was very struck by its contrasts: old and new, simple and complex, acoustic and electric, ethereal and grounded, cryptic and confessional. I found myself exploring and foregrounding the guitar much more than usual. By chance I had picked up a humble classical guitar just before lockdown…it felt like the stars aligned to make it all happen.”
The result is some of Comrade Hat’s most experimental work to date. Song structures dissolve, lost in detailed harmonic labyrinths and follow surreal trains of thought. Still, Old Gods, Vol. 1 also finds Burns tussling with themes both personal and prescient: long-distance relationships, lost love and isolation. While topical, it is hardly a new development for Burns.
“I have always been something of an outsider. I’m an only child, a bit of a loner, unsure of myself and my sexuality. I’ve always been comfortable with solitude. I’ve never fitted neatly into a scene, musical or otherwise, so I created my own. Music has helped me come to terms with who I am, with life. A navigational tool. A, better, parallel universe of feeling. It’s the one place I can fully be myself. I think this is the most honest record I have made.”
Comrade Hat’s most daring effort to date, Old Gods, Vol. 1 is deceptively layered; a gradually unfurling tapestry, it taps into the humanistic power of the changing of seasons. At turns warmly inviting and glacially isolationist, it acts as an evocation to both the listener and Burns himself to look further, toward hidden meaning within themselves.
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