There are people who like attending the spotlight and others who prefer avoiding it. It’s kind of a balance act this welsh duo is taking since MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY clearly tend to feel comfortable in the second group of humans. What to do when you’re shy but your music feels so damn epic, so wide and supersonic that it feels like it was produced for – well let’s say – rather a huge stadium crowd than a small and sticky underground club? So for reasons beyond their preferences MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY were forced to enter the bright light. The good thing: they’re also entering our hearts and minds with their ambitious mixture of electronic pop and big shoegaze landscapes. A combination that makes their recently released debut Foe to one of the finest pop albums of this year by now.
Tomas Greenhalf and Ryan James met during a course while they were both attending the same university. It’s no coincidence that the topic of this course was popular music and the reason for their attendence was the fact that they were looking for like-minded people. The rest was magic or at least took a lot of time and practice. Five years later – in 2011 – they both took the leap of faith out of their hidden bedrooms and into the world, releasing an EP named King Complex and furthermore gaining the attention of a lot of slightly known people. Dream-Pop-Superstar Anthony Gonzalez of M83 fell in love and is since then constantly booking them as tour support. MOBY and ACTIVE CHILD are also huge fans and hired the duo for remixes. And SIGUR RÓS -Producer Ken Thomas mixed their debut – just because he liked it that much.
So what’s the magic behind these two versed musicians? It’s the world they create with their epic sound constructions. Enormous synthesizer landscapes meet reverberative drums, a lot of echoes, whide layers and the fragile voice of Ryan James. It’s no surprise that he’s also adressing some existential topics in his song that combine harsh and sometimes bitter lyrics with cryptic discriptions. False beauty and fame are as much a theme as introspective pain and a troubled childhood. “This is the sound of my lungs giving up / When I sung more than enough” is just one quote (from the track Ebb & Flow) of the many brilliant words James is singing. It’s only ten tracks but within them there’s plenty of music to discover – the brilliance of pop songs like the singles Puppets or Closet Addicts Anonymous, the industrial undertone of Migrating Clay Pigeon or the piano-driven ambient feeling of Parity. They got so much to present and Foe is just the beginning. Once the epic synthesizer-wall of the closer Inflammable Heart stops there’s probably two feelings you’re left with. First: you’ve heard a brilliant selection of pop songs and second: Let’s hope there will be more. And who knows: maybe they both enjoy themselves in the light. There’s a lot to discover here – even for them.
MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY
electropop / shoegaze
from South Wales, UK