By Noel Atcheson
Eoin French, aka Talos, has developed a reputation as perhaps one of Ireland’s best-kept musical secrets.
A slow-drip release of music has created a somewhat enigmatic presence around the Cork native since releasing his debut single Tethered Bones at the tail-end of 2014.
Last August’s well-received O Sanctum EP offered a brief glimpse into his hazy, electro-folk musical identity, but the culmination of his almost three-year song-writing odyssey [pardon the pun] is his first full length album, Wild Alee.
Recorded between Dublin, Cork and Iceland, it is an album of intense personal reflection, lyrically inspired by themes of love and the challenge of relationships.
It sounds beautiful, drenched in ethereal melodies which are guided by producer Ross Dowling’s desk-work and
aided by the expansion of Talos to a six-piece band.
Most importantly it is an album that more than lives up to, and often exceeds, the lofty expectations set by its creator.
There is a deliberation on carefully-crafted musicianship throughout the 13-track set, embedded in a cocoon of atmospherics.
Openers Runaway and Odyssey set the tone for much of the album. The former’s reverberating guitar notes thrum along French’s piercing falsetto, building slowly into a crescendo of synths and a vocal lament of run away, child/this was only a mistake and Odyssey offers one of the strongest cuts on the album, beginning as a melancholic piano-led ballad that ascends into a pirouette of electronic washes and swirling vocals.
As the record unfolds, it becomes apparent that the real focal point of this album is French’s voice. Seamlessly veering between a haunting lilt and powerful dynamics, his ability to carry these songs to different plateaus is uncanny.
The slow-burn of In Time is an exhibition of the emotional diversity that his voice attains, while the stirring harmonies of Contra will linger in the head for days, punctuated by a stunning chorus that captures French’s ear for melody.
The piano/hymnal tenderness of Piece[s], meanwhile, would not sound entirely out of place on an Enya album.
Many of the songs roll naturally into each other, but there are moments that step outside the comfort zone.
The instrumental Wetlands is reminiscent of Jon Hopkins’ more serene moments with its layered ambience cascading over the listener with waves of beauty.
Tethered Bones offers a mature, funk-infused slice of straight-up electronica, while This Is Us Colliding is a spiritually charged piece of anthemic electro-pop. 209 diverges upon a darker side of the sonic palette, with duelling descending vocal melodies leading into a tense claustrophobia of drums and reverberating minimalism that create a haunting sense of emptiness.
One can only speculate as to whether he will continue to expand upon the foundation of his aural canvas on future releases. But as a whole, and as a debut, Wild Alee is a stunning exploration of one man’s emotional psyche – an album that deserves to be heard and celebrated far and wide as one of the stand-out records of the year so far.