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Despite all these references and talents for instrumentation, SixToes don’t fully define their sound until ‘Zen Box.’ Throughout The Morning After it feels as if SixToes may be trying to occupy the same space as Zach Condon’s Beirut. But in ‘Zen Box’ David Greenep’s vocals still hum but also soar and squeal. It’s a bit more expansive and in the composition and arrangement they have allowed themselves more freedom to express.
Perhaps their most accomplished instrumentation is saved for the final moments of ‘Low Guns’ – in which the vocals of Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode make an appearance. The unkempt falling and cascading violins drag their way to a crescendo making a sound similar to something heard on a Bright Eyes album. It is a great example of SixToes talent for arrangements.
It’s been six years and an expansion to six members since SixToes released their debut, Trick of the Night, in 2008, which is a nice number given their name. Like six toes, all on one slightly troubled foot making music that is as well arranged, well referenced, well respected and drenched in bleak tones. SixToes are at their best when given freedom to express in a solitary moment or empathise with a monumentally dour, sour moment in life.
Perhaps as a thank you for this, and the other interpretations of DM tracks, Depeche frontman Dave Gahan features on “Low Guns”. His trademark angst-driven vocals enrich the group’s theatrical spectacles, with guitars initially swapped for war drums before a post-break build up to lush arrangements and a strange blend of melancholia and euphoria. Simply stunning, and by no means an easy song to get along with towards the string-heavy outro, but one that reaps rewards once that difficult task of turning off and opening a mind simultaneously has been achieved.
A folkier feel fuels songs elsewhere on the LP, with “Volume Song” built, as many of the numbers are, on playful guitar parts and poetic, storytelling lyrics. “Nobody Inn” is similar, telling the story of a drinking hole, but not exactly selling it to those looking for a “2 For £10 Menu” to take the family. Echoed vocals twist and turn, using alliteration and repetition (“a crashing bore, he hit the linen… and if there’s blood to spill he’ll spill it”) to create an almost hypnotic, or perhaps inebriated effect. Unorthodox rhythms play out and in and around throughout, with the vocals of (almost) title track “The Morning After Melodrama” seeming to float above and tangle in the “the waves” and tides” sung about, like a stream of ribbon in a changing wind, with deeper voices appearing to take the place of what would ordinarily be the cellos lines later on.
(The Line Of Best Fit)