Opener 'Horse Latitudes' exemplifies this; a dark, stirring introductory arrangement, at funeral march pace, precedes intimate whisperings from Wyatt - whose vocals bounce and disorientate. It juxtaposes thrillingly, of course, with 'Harlem Boyzz', which woos with Gene Pitney-ish loftiness, a Frankie Valli falsetto hook and lyrics which include the words "crackheads" and "McDonalds". It takes multiple revisits to hear the two's intrinsic similarities; a wonderful natural quality, which suggests that he hasn't over-analysed his own creative process, but recorded in the same organic way as the 50s and 60s crooners he wishes to crookedly emulate. In that respect, you can feel the LP's limited time-scale; it's a project of passion rather than a confused and painstaking labour of love.
This feels equally apparent in 'She's Changed', which sees his twisted cinematic vision come to life. Journeying on a freeform, Yann Tiersen-like structure, it travels progressively from quaint and curious melodies to the sort of menacing riff that Marc Bolan made teen girls scream with. Needless to say, it's an odd centrepiece and one that only rewards in context. On the contrary, 'It Won't Let You Go' is a winding ballad worthy of a wedding dance; its parped climax and cracked vocals are bewilderingly brilliant - like Phil Collins if he was to document a slide into drug-addled insanity in song form. It's here that Descender begins its own descent towards madness - with a backmasked interlude (the title track) and the Serge Gainsbourg-esque slow-build, 'In Paris They Know How to Build a Monument'. Both are hallucinogenic, unhinged and mildly unsettling in an utterly compelling way. The perfect setup for the finale, 'There Is A Spring', which is a dumbfounding piece that totally defies the somewhat bumbling persona he hints at during the 'Making Of' teaser doc; classically-constructed with a Ludovico Einaudi-like piano refrain and suitably Eastern European instrumentation that's evocative of the score to 'Good Bye Lenin!', it's a triumphant curtain call.
However ostentatious his efforts sound on paper, Wyatt's debut goes hand in glove with its enticing back story; a record that rewards your investment, balancing the sugary with the sinister to provide a snap shot into the slightly frayed mind of a beguiling talent.
Coming in with brooding cellos, "Horse Latitudes" stays string heavy, ending a repeated rising violin line backed by a variety of electronic additions. Then its moves into the pop ballad with a dark lyrical twist, "Harlem Boyzz." Its deceptively sugary arrangement of bouncy bass, violin tremolo and upbeat tempo is overlaid with lyrics like "crackheads are falling through the bannisters." Also, there's the first hint of the most definitely American (despite his Scandinavian connections) singer's oddly British pronunciations that are scattered throughout the album, particularly on the next track, "Cluster Subs." The faster paced, higher energy track has a lot going for it, but the line "you can Namaste all you bloody want to / you can curse my name all you bloody want to" is just so affectedly faux-Brit it's a little hard to completely get behind.
"She's Changed" opens up with a return to the heavily reverbed vocals of "Horse Latitudes" over a slightly too precious flute/violin arrangement, before developing a more agreeable edge. The partially Mrs. Dalloway inspired "And Septimus..." and "It Won't Let You Go" have both been out for a while now - the first in promotion of this album, the second as part of INGRID's inaugural release last Record Store Day. Both use the myriad of instrumental tone and timbre that a philharmonic orchestra offers to full advantage, matched in the varied range and tone of Wyatt's vocals. On "And Septimus..." the glassy bright sheen to his falsetto hearkens back to sharper edged insisting of Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos on Manners (as compared to his softer, rounder tone on Gossamer), while his tenor range is fuzzier, almost comforting, in contrast. The walking bass line fades out nicely.
"It Won't Let You Go" is decidedly pretty, from the brief oboe and bassoon features in the opening, to the rising sonic swell that ebbs briefly before building back up to its string stinger flourished finish. "Descender (1000 Cuts)" comes through with a warped kaleidoscope of sound editing, throwing out eerily distorted themes pulled from the rest of the album. It would have worked well as a closer, but there are still two more tracks to go. Both "In Paris They Know How to Build a Monument" and "There is a Spring" head into overproduced territory. "In Paris..." suffers more by placement than anything; put it before "Descender" and its nuances come off as interesting rather than overdone. On "There is a Spring," the various instruments of the orchestra fit in a little too neatly, and end up sounding like audio samples. Much of the natural expression and distinct timbres imbued by actual instrumentalists is effectively neutered in favor of cleaner, controlled sound bites.