Cian Ciaran - Outside In

A very pleasant and rewarding surprise.

Rating:

Behind almost every great band lies an unsung driving force. Cian Ciaran has been the keyboard player, sonic alchemist and general creative lifeblood behind the idiosyncratic shape shifting pop of Super Furry Animals since they formed in 1993.

In downtime from SFA duty, Ciaran has regularly produced electronic techno tracks and DJs under the guises of Acid Casuals and Paps, but this year sees him finally step forward with a solo record released under his own name. It is an album of beguiling beauty that will pleasantly surprise anyone familiar with his work who expects an album of challenging electronica.

‘Outside In’ is rooted in the sort of grand orchestral pop that was made in the sixties by composers like Burt Bacharach. Ciaran has eschewed his dance influences in favour of an album that is positively dripping with melody and harmony.

The sixties influence is profound throughout. Opening track and single ‘You & Me’ is a lovely sweeping slice of soulful pop. Ciaran’s voice is given the chance to flower and flourish and his gorgeous croon is a standout feature. Lyrically as well as musically the sixties influence is strong, ‘You & Me’ is a simple lament for lost ideals with Ciaran singing, “Whatever happened to selflessness, consideration, cooperation?” as Beatles-y guitar licks languidly echo around his vocals.

‘Outside In’ was composed entirely on piano and Ciaran’s skill as an arranger and producer shines through. At times the record is quietly understated, as on the stark a cappela piece ‘1st Time’ and the piano waltz ‘’Till I Die’. At other times the album is positively exuberant, particularly on the closing two tracks ‘What Will Be’ and ‘Upside Downers’ two tracks that are imbued with joy and filled with all manner of horns and strings.

There is a slight tendency to veer into slightly soporific AOR pop sounds on the more sleepy and laidback tracks but these moments are often broken up by a deceptively immersive melody or harmony. All those years with SFA have given Ciaran a perceptible gift for always finding a winning melody.

‘Outside In’ is a charming curiosity that will brighten the heart of anyone that comes across it. A very pleasant and rewarding surprise.
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