Scotland has a strong connection to that almost gothic, darker sound that bands like Cocteau Twins and the Mary Chain pioneered. Carrying on that tradition are a duo from the Scottish Borders south of Edinburgh. Sun Shines Cold fuse elements of post-rock, shoegaze, post-punk, psyche and 80’s goth. Multi instrumentalists Brian Jordan and Colan Miles influences include Slowdive, The Cure, Ride, Mogwai, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, and Interpol. With that list of big hitters I was keen to find out about their debut album Echoes of a Former Life. Miles had this to say.
“Echoes of a former life is an album about past and present situations, relationships, places, lifestyles and ultimately with the final track growing older and watching people you care about fade. Our aim was to create an emotive but uplifting sound but with a dark edge that hopefully resonates with our listeners. The album cover is a disused railway tunnel in our home town that we hung about in as youths.”
Sounds like we may need torches as we’re heading somewhere dark.
The album opens on the instrumental “Before”. Stark and subdued drums emerge from the fog of droning feedback. A glacial guitar riff picks out the gaps and fills them with eerie swells and chimes. The band setting up their sonic palette giving us a flavour of what’s to come.
“Tried So Hard” really nails that late 80’s gothic sound. It’s sedate pace leaving lots of cavernous space for this song to grow in. Whilst there’s no denying the sombre tone it never feels morose or self-indulgent. The bass carves a path right through the track which the synths and guitars weave around. This provides a neat foil to the lighter tones on the next song.
‘Floods’ opens in the higher register with chiming guitar leading us into the song. Pause here to pay attention to the drums. It’s so refreshing to hear a drummer really explore their kit to add something unique to a track. For me this song is all about the chorus. It flips this song on its head and is both uplifting and optimistic making it my album stand out track.
Things get sparse on ‘Thoughts’. Sparse but still powerful and gripping. This song is a masterclass in how to wrestle the maximum amount of emotion out of the fewest notes and chords. Drums, again, on point making themselves the driver and ensuring this song has clear direction and purpose. It’s a great track and rounds our Side A nicely.
Over on the flipside things kick off with the single from February this year ‘There Came A Rain’. The haunting vocals are only made more eerie by the ghostly guitars and synths. The lyrics speak of a life ending but I think its more about the end of one part of your life. One that’s been particularly difficult. “Pull me down no more breath. Face the end and rise again”. That hidden optimism really endears this album to me even more.
‘Falling’ also maintains that optimism in the face of a failed relationship. Just listen to the ebb and flow of the chorus, the chiming guitars in the outro. Sun Shines Cold really utilise dynamics to the fullest to take you on a journey through these songs. Back on the chorus, the words seem to fall out the speakers like a waterfall. The descending chords are really impactful.
The opening to ‘Gone’ really ups that ghostly vibe. The guitar chords actually sound haunted. The album reaches its darkest moment here. The song conjures images in your mind of a forest at midnight and its many terrors hidden in the shadows. No respite is offered to us. The song leaves us alone in the twilight searching for the moon. This is so affecting here as its stands alone on the album as punctuation point, a pause before our final song.
‘Sundowning’ is nothing short of epic. An instrumental that leans into the post rock genre to deliver a crescendo that brings us home. This is going to sound massive when performed live. The guitars build in intensity and layer up with the bass and drums to provide an explosive ending that deserves to be heard at maximum volume! Turn it up!
In Echoes of a Former Life Sun Shines Cold have created a work of gothic grandeur, a dark companion to take you to places you’re too scared to go alone. However. Throughout the album, in amongst the sombre tones there’s a real underlying optimistic thread. Even though the subject matter can be dark or emotional, in each song there’s a wee spark of hope. That’s the strength of Sun Shines Cold and the reason this album is going to find them so many more fans.
Echoes of a Former Life is available to pre-order now on limited edition vinyl and digital from the Sun Shines Cold Bandcamp page.
You can follow Sun Shines Cold on social media here…