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Duncan Park’s latest EP “Sunburning” is a unique mix of elements across four differing tracks. Folk and fingerstyle guitar meet programmed drums and whimsical electronic elements in different ways each time for something altogether different. With all this experimentation, some elements shine more than others.
‘Valley Of Desolation’ starts things off with a track governed by organic guitar steeped in blues and folk with just a dash of slide guitar warbling in the background. It effectively conjures the stark rural setting that serves as inspiration for the entirety of this EP, setting the stage for four very different interpretative tracks.
While guitar, occasional synth and programmed drums are balanced in the mix, there are some issues with the vocals. Consonant sounds leap out but most of the vowel sounds are drowned out in favour of crystal clear guitar playing. This results in a choppy delivery that makes the voice hard to follow. The fact that it’s muffled does it no favours either. Whether conscious or otherwise, this measure renders the entirety of “Sunburning” into a guitar-dominated exercise. Amidst a scattering of synthy additions here and there, the vocals are left to play the proverbial second fiddle throughout.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. ‘Song For John’ revels in fingerstyle guitar playing and sees Park at his best. It could happily be a gentle solo piece with no need for drums or vocals showing where Park is most at home. The pseudo-instrumental approach continues with ‘Nameless Drone’. A disembodied voice narrates over a landscape of twirling guitar, taking on existentialism and a “nameless drone which binds us all”. It’s an interesting mood piece, cohesive and unconventional.
‘Potholes’ closes things off in an upbeat folk tune about hitchhiking to Sudan. It’s a lyrical curiosity and one image in particular with “While they’re riding on an elephant I can see its tears/ For the life that you have stripped of it an loneliness it’s felt for years”. As a closer it’s a gentle one that relies most on lyrical originality.
Park is a highly experimental individual. But in spite of his need to explore, he always ends up putting his best foot forward and prioritizing the guitar. What stands out most is his aptitude for gentle instrumentals, a side I hope to hear much more from.
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Listen to “Sunburning EP” below.