Described as a spellbinding ten track album, The Melting Ice Caps latest offering Sweet Sleight: a Slight Suite is as catchy as it is warmly familiar. Packed with an authentic simplicity and laced with emotive lyrics from start to end, the album explores a range of emotions whilst delving deep to emerge through swirling, layered undertones.
But how best to describe a sound which is as fresh as it is distinctive, yet captivating through that comforting warmth of familiarity? We spoke to the man behind the album-here’s our David Shah interview in full:
LDM- I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing two albums on which you feature heavily – current LP, Sweet Sleight: a Slight Suite and a slightly earlier project. In both reviews we touched upon that wonderful hint of Morrissy which shines through your vocal. When somebody draws such a comparison, how does it sit with you as an artist?
DS- I like your use of the words ‘hint of’. I must have absorbed all sorts of influences and it would be wrong to pretend otherwise, but hopefully my voice is distinctly my own. I love Morrissey’s tone, his melodies, the sound he’s drawn to and many of his lyrics.
LDM- Take u all the way back to the album’s conception. Was it a project you had in mind during your earlier work?
DS- The Melting Ice Caps have existed in some form or another since around 2007. It started as the project name I used for any songs I wrote on my own (plus a few I co-wrote) and recorded at home, sometimes with musician friends pitching in here and there. The early Ice Caps releases are available as free downloads on my website. I was learning the art of home recording as I went along, and it shows at times, but that material is still worth investigating I think.
Having released various singles and EPs, some of which featured the live Melting Ice Caps band that I had by then put together, I recorded the Permissible Permutations album, which came out in 2012. Around the middle of 2013 I had the luxury of quite a bit of free time, so a lot of the songwriting and production for the songs on the new album (Sweet Sleight: a Slight Suite) happened then. In November 2013 I took a full time job which slowed down work on the album, plus I was involved in getting The Soft Close-Ups album finished, hence SSSS only emerging now.
I can’t say there was any grand plan with this album, I just waited until I felt I had enough songs of sufficient quality and coherency to call an album.
LDM- The album’s title, Sweet Sleight: a Slight Suite has quite an abstract quality about it. I have to ask where it comes from.
DS- A sleight can be a deception or trick, of course. Sometimes deceptions or tricks can be deliciously sweet. The subtitle (A Slight Suite) is just a play on the title which I thought might amuse people. The album was originally going to be nine songs long, which would have been quite slight. At ten songs it’s perhaps not particularly slight, but I wasn’t going to let that detail stop me using that subtitle! Besides, the album still comes in at under 29 minutes.
LDM- We’re familiar with your work as part of The Soft Close-Ups, and we thoroughly enjoyed City Air. How does Sweet Sleight compare in your opinion?
DS- Glad you enjoyed City Air. Sweet Sleight is very much a DIY album. It’s the result of me spending far too much time at home with Apple Logic and a bunch of real and virtual instruments. In contrast, everything on City Air was co-written with guitarist Aug Stone, and then performed by either the full Soft Close-Ups band in a professional studio, or – in the case of some of the tracks – by just Aug and me in my home studio. I loved working with such brilliant musicians on City Air, whereas I suppose with Sweet Sleight part of the satisfaction is knowing that I played, sang or programmed almost every note myself.
LDM- Lyrically your music is strikingly resounding. Can you give us an insight into your writing process?
DS- Thank you! I’ve been writing songs for about 20 years, and one rule of thumb that has served me pretty well is to try to use words, phrases and ideas that aren’t ‘supposed’ to appear in a pop song. In the early noughties I sang in a band, the members of which would come up with lots of music/song ideas. I would usually have a stash of lyrics (or at least lyric ideas) to pluck from as new pieces of music emerged. At that time the only thing I needed to concentrate on was the lyrics and the vocal, knowing the music was in good hands.
With the work I release as The Melting Ice Caps it’s different in that it’s all down to me. It feels more like hard work when you have to come up with the lyrics and the music yourself (and do the sound engineering)! But I try to keep the standard high. There’s a real pleasure when you hit upon a neat image or pleasing rhyme. I suppose I could get some of that same thrill from doing crosswords or something-it’s not quite the same though!
LDM- In our review we described the album as captivating simplistic guitar pop with a deep twist. How would you personally describe it?
DS- I can live with that description! You also describe the music as easy listening, and I can see what you mean in the sense that I hold back on things like guitar distortion and I try to make sure the lyrics are always discernable. But I’d prefer to use the phrase ‘uneasy listening’. A song like Third Life gives me a certain queasy feeling, and not just from the lyrics, despite the prettiness of some of the sounds and melodies on it. Perhaps that’s what you mean by ‘a deep twist.’
LDM- The album has received some hugely positive feedback, but musically, what can we come to expect from The Melting Ice Caps going forward?
DS- Towards the end of finishing the album I thought I might give songwriting a rest for a while. But now the opportunity has come to be able to spend a bit more time in my home studio each week , so I’m inclined to keep on. I’ve written one new song since the album came out and I’m excited about it- but I’m always excited about the newest one! I hope others will come along. It does look like I’m stuck with this pop making thing for life now, even though it perhaps isn’t a particularly rational thing to do with your time. The positive feedback that you mention is hugely appreciated and it is definitely a part of what keeps me releasing music.
LDM- Lastly, what does the future hold for The Melting Ice Caps?
DS- More songs hopefully. And I’ll try play live a bit more often. Plus, I’ve got a non-music (but music related) offering on the way… If I get ’round to finishing it.
The current Melting Ice Caps album Sweet Sleight: a Slight Suite is available right now!