ALBUM REVIEW: Tunng – Tunng Presents…Dead Club | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Full Time Hobby

Released: 06.11.20

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image by Lilias Buchanan

This is a really astonishing piece of work – let’s get that out of the way. And it made me cry.

Seven albums in, Tunng have made something that manages to be not only musically stunning but also has some hefty cultural import. This is about death, folks, and I can’t think of another record like it. The band have tackled death before, particularly on their ageless Bullets, but here they really examine its meaning, its impact, what it tells us about life, meeting it full on rather than dabbling with it like a tongue bothering a tooth. To do this they’ve recruited some really fascinating contributors – Max Porter (whose heartbreaking book Grief Is The Thing With Feathers seems to have been the key to the project’s inception), Alain de Botton, AC Grayling, Derren Brown and more – and recorded them in conversation, using samples or specially commissioned pieces throughout the album. And, being Tunng, there’s an attention to detail that’s remarkable – the album is set around a D-E-A-D chord sequence, there were visits to death cafes and discussions with palliative care workers. And of course it’s not just an album: there’s a series of podcasts, a fanzine, there were plans for special live events that, somewhat ironically, have been put on hold because of COVID-19.

All of this would be laudable but a little pointless if the record didn’t match up to the work surrounding it. But this is perhaps Tunng’s finest recording yet. One of the few bands to survive the dreaded ‘folktronica’ tag unscathed, Dead Club employs their usual blend of electronics, acoustic instruments and those impossibly gorgeous vocals to make something that is beautiful, soothing and melancholy without being dour or miserable. This isn’t an album about how miserable death – or the contemplation of it – is. It’s about finding ways to live in the knowledge that this too must pass, perhaps without the protection previously provided by religion. Stand out songs like opener Eating The Dead and the truly uplifting Swedish Death Cleaning are as good as they’ve ever written.

When I find myself before the consultant’s desk finding out I’ve finally succumbed to the disease that will end me, I’d take the news a lot better if it were sung to me by Tunng.

 

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