New To Us – Allen Tate

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Photo by Matthew Burke

Who?
Allen Tate is a songwriter and vocalist, up until now best known as the male singer in orchestral-pop collective San Fermin, but now a solo artist in his own right. His debut album, Sleepwalker, was produced by San Fermin band-leader, Ellis Ludwig-Leone, and features contributions from band mates, Michael Hanf (drums) and Tyler McDiarmid (guitar).

What?
Fans of his work with San Fermin will be pleased to hear his powerful barritone voice remains front and centre in his solo music. Musically Allen’s own compositions are more stripped back affairs, building for the most part around a pallet of synth textures, layered, textural guitar lines and fairly straight-forward rocky drum beats.

Where?
Allen is, like so many other musicians, based out of Brooklyn. The most populous of New York’s five boroughs, Brooklyn is home to over two and a half million residents. Up until 1898, Brooklyn was a city in it’s own right, until the new Municipal Charter of “Greater New York”, which saw Brooklyn consolidated with the other cities, boroughs, and counties that form the modern day New York. Following a period of gentrification and housing price booms, Brooklyn is now considered New York’s hipster-enclave, and it unsurprisingly has a thriving music scene, giving the world artists such as Grizzly Bear, Pill and The Fiery Furnaces.

When?
Work on Sleepwalker began back in 2014, when Allen spent a three week stint in Copenhagen following a tour of Europe with San Fermin. Sleepwalker is due out October 28th via Votiv Music.

Why?
Discussing the inspiration behind Sleepwalker, Allen has suggested it is a collection of explorations of a variety of types of loneliness, be it, “physically alone, or feeling estranged, or alone like it’s all up to you.” Sleepwalker certainly taps into that feeling; it seems to exist in brooding back alleys,  seedy underworlds and a cloud of permanent fog, rarely, if ever, permeated by the slightest glimpse of sunlight. Combined with the somewhat 1980’s tinged synthesisers, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a concept album based around Blade Runner.

For the most part the tracks stick to a similar formula, heavy, almost post-rock guitars, cut through with burbling synth textures, creating rich musical backdrops, for Allen’s powerful vocal, pitched somewhere between Mark Kozelek and Bill Callahan. Tracks like Wrapped Up, CPH and I Don’t Think About It are masterpieces in gloomy maudlin, indie-rock, the latter in particular brings to mind the likes of Editors or the most downbeat moments of New Order.

The most interesting moments here are when Allen gently shifts the basic ideas. Don’t Choke, with it’s stunning choral backing, is a tale of soulless bodies stumbling through the night in search of anyone to share their warmth with. Opening track, Aliens, is a rapidly shifting soundscape, military drums and synth swells are cut through by jarring guitars that nod to Nine Inch Nails, before it gently moves towards a beautiful instrumental outro, which brings to mind Mogwai’s stunning soundtrack to Les Revenants.

Best of all is recent single, YDNF (Young Dumb Numb Fun), a fairly straight forward electronic-indie song, reminiscent of Stars. It’s a brilliantly hazy youth anthem, with an immensely hooky chorus. Lyrically it’s about that universal feeling of being stuck on your own for too long, to the point of wanting to do absolutely anything just to see another person, but in it’s universal simplicity it hits on something rather magic, put simply it’s a stunningly good pop song

Why Not?
Sleepwalker is perhaps a tad one-paced and somehow the brooding, melancholy feels a little put on. Still it’s an impressive start and once Allen finds his own sound, and his own voice, you feel there’s the making of a huge talent.

Sleepwalker is out October 28th via Votiv Music. Click HERE for all upcoming Allen Tate shows.

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