Deadwall – The Zero Cliff, Album Stream and Track by Track
Leeds quartet Deadwall have been making a name for themselves as one of the most distinctive and intelligent guitar bands currently working today. Their newly released second album The Zero Cliff focuses in on their melodic potency and bittersweet emotional pull, whilst also drawing on a wealth of different sonic and intellectual influences that result in an album of rare depth and humanity.
We’re delighted to be able to present a stream of the full album, alongside a special track-by-track guide to the album by the band themselves:
The Zero Cliff, Track by Track:
Hall of Mists
Christopher Duffin (keyboards) – The original idea for this was that it was maybe going to be an interlude somewhere on the record. Maybe that’s because it’s clearly an opener and we were trying to not be so obvious, but I guess sometimes you should accept you’ve written an intro track and just leave it as that. We recorded this pretty quickly, we all played something with a keyboard attached to it, set the reverbs to full and left it at that. The demo version we had was way noisier and got chaotic pretty quickly, but Matt (Johnson – Suburban Home Studio) got the vibe of the record right from the beginning and moulded something beautiful for us to open with.
Thomas Gourley (vocals, guitars) – Classic ‘where do we put this?’ opening track! I think each of us took it in turns to throw an idea down, I can’t quite remember what I played on this. I sung, I know that much.
CD – I think this was the first song we put together for the record and we all thought it was nice and catchy so it stuck with us and survived until the bitter end. The riff, if you can call it that, was originally Basri’s bassline idea… I liked it, stole it, played it on the keyboards and then he had to think of another bass part. Sorry / thanks, Basri.
TG – This definitely was the first song written for ZC, inspired by Jonathan Livingston Seagull. There’s a scene where he gets taken into the dark heavens (maybe heavens…) by a couple of angel gulls (maybe angels…). It’s a beautiful scene which triggered the theme for the record.
CD – I’m pleased we resisted the urge to hammer this one out with our feet up on the monitors as it could’ve gone that way. We were trying to land somewhere between Stereolab’s French Disko and Wilco’s Kamera with his one – the great thing about working with somebody like Matt is that you only have to half mention something like that once and it gets done. We accidently made quite an outro-heavy record… I think it’s just because we like hearing Basri play guitar to be honest.
TG – Maybe the least Deadwall song we’ve written, I don’t know. I like Basri’s guitar on the outro too, it’s like an alarm going off. I’m pretty sure I convinced myself the chorus was a Kylie song at first. Maybe it is?
CD – We bought a Fender VI before we went in the studio (kinda went through a heavy Cure phase ok), hoping we could sneak a Witchita Lineman-esque lead line in somewhere, but it ended up on about half of the record. It’s got a unique weirdy vibe to it and breaks up the floaty nature of this tune nicely, which is cool as that meant we could get away with going full Carpenters in the middle section. Somebody said this tune sounded like Bread… I’m not sure where our heads were at the time, but we took it as a compliment and went with it. The blown-out ending was something Matt worked on during mixing and I think it’s utterly beautiful – we didn’t want the song to just end, we felt like it needed to change direction to hold the rest of the tune up / help us get away with the Carpenters/Bread stuff. I think we got away with it.
Errant Love Song
CD – The demo to this was originally just a vocal and a Wurlitzer piano and it sounded wonderful – sometimes I wish that we could just release some of Tom’s original idea demos. It sounded very Elliot Smith to begin with. We had all been listening to Jon Brion and looked at this one through that lens. To begin with it was a lot more orchestrated than the version here, we had written Bass Clarinet parts… but then we had a word with ourselves and decided to take it down more of an Abbey Road route. The outro to this track was originally written separate to the track, but it fits in well… and any resemblance to She’s So Heavy is only in vibe (OK Paul? We don’t want any trouble mate.)
TG – Yeah, I remember how we wrote this song outro-first, that was kinda fun.
Tom Basri (bass) – There’s so much going on in the chorus, so many parts that are quite rhythmic and syncopated but it gels really nicely.
CD – The sound of the Fender VI and guitar playing this opening line in unison is one of my favourite sounds on the record. The way it floats over that throbbing Moog bass is really relaxing… it’s usually how we open our live set and it’s a good thing to hold for as long as possible just to get everybody tuned in. Dynamically too I’m really proud of this tune and I think it reflects well on the record as a whole too.
TG – It’s one of my proudest moments lyrically, ostensibly about a sunset. The outro guitar is quite possibly the loudest thing I’ve ever been in a room with. And I’ve seen Hookworms play…!
TB – Yeah, the only time I’ve been recording and told to stick my headstock on the amp to get as much feedback as possible.
TG – We did so many versions of this, there’ll probably be another one on the next record! I can’t help but be pleased with the meteorological accuracy of the lyrics here!
TB – Yeah, this had many forms that we couldn’t settle on, then found its rebirth from the 4 bar drum loop that Matt made. Think we just piled everything on top after that?
CD – Ahh Cyclones… it sounds so effortless on record but what a pain this tune is to try and get right. If we split up at any point soon and we cite ‘creative differences’, then this tune will be the reason why. This recorded sounds cool though and we have to give Matt a huge thanks for that as he added the drone that holds it all together and managed to get the sounds we were after from giving him pretty terrible and mumbling examples. I think it’s one of my favourites though and it’s the best chorus Tom has ever written.
Blue & White Blues
TG – I remember doing an acoustic demo of this, just improvising the words because I couldn’t get a melody to work and got really sick of myself. I still can’t decide if we get away with it!
CD – If you’re going to have an existential breakdown / rant you might as well do it over a brittle telecaster riff. No much more to say on that really.
The Ballad of Kasumi
TG – This is my absolute favourite song on the record, and it’s my proudest moment lyrically. An ode to someone special, it means a lot to me. Kasumi is a coastal mist in Japan, just in case you google it and get the wrong idea about me.
CD – The only thing I had going through my head the whole time we were writing and recording this was the outro music to Stingray (Aqua Marina)… probably doesn’t show, maybe it does. Don’t know. This is probably the closest we’ve ever come to executing exactly what we were thinking and Matt’s production on this is so lush and dreamy, it couldn’t have come out any better. We were hoping it would have a Scott Walker type vibe with the crunch chord strings and flowing arrangements. We used an Optigan on this which when played next to the live strings gave it an ethereal quality, those things sound so ghost-like. This is my favourite of the outros and I love how it sounds like it’s hanging on a knife edge, pulling away from the arrangement like the tide described in the song.
TG – I remember Matt that said this was one of his proudest mixes, which brings me out in heart emojis. It’s the song that summarises the record best, I think and I love how simple Dominic (Deane, drums) and Basri kept it, and Duffin’s piano too. They all weighted it just so.
TB – Best drum sound throughout the record.
CD – We may have been listening to Talk Talk quite a bit (again, Mark mate, we’re cool yeah?) and I think we channelled that vibe pretty well. Agreed, these are the best drums on the record and the mix is so strong. I got a little obsessed with I Believe in You and went through a phase of wanting to cry every time the boys choir joined in with the Hammond mid-way through that tune, so I bought a silly expensive reverb pedal based solely on that to try and get a similar thing going on with the Hammond, I wanted it to glisten through the Leslie. Thankfully it worked out and we ended up using the pedal on everything… which is good as I had to get it on finance and the monthly payments are still hurting (please buy our album).