‘On Dead Waves’ by onDeadWaves (Album)

On Dead Waves album cover

Polly Scattergood and James Chapman: the duo have carried themselves off to an ethereal purgatory

This noir-like debut album from Polly Scattergood and James Chapman (Maps) finds a beautifully haunting use for their unified talents

On Dead Waves album coverThe debut album from onDeadWaves, a collaboration between Polly Scattergood and James Chapman (Maps) “documents dark memories, and buried emotions”. From the opening hum of Blackbird, the duo have carried themselves off to an ethereal purgatory where these moments can be dissected.

But it’s a purgatory that takes the form of a dusty old roadside shack, perennially backlit by the moon’s glow. Much of the record’s late night feel comes from the lack of synth, replaced by an eerie twang and soft percussion. The hushed semi-spoken delivery of both Scattergood and Chapman adds to this feeling. When they let go, as on California, a welcome contrast of daylight bursts into the room. But it’s deceptive, the melody may be happier but “we’re all dead in California”.

Hollow is a noir take on Lucinda Williams dusky American, with Scattergood confessing “don’t let me down gently, I want to feel the fall.” Alice takes the album’s dreamlike qualities to an otherworldly place, and it remains there for the psalm-like introduction of Dead Balloons. Winter’s Child, with it’s opening line “we lay there still, barely breathing”, could be a Nick Cave song covered by Beach House – it’s menace hidden beneath a wash of sound and a fitting close.

The duo have created a subtly brooding debut album which brings together, and elevates, their combined talents. There are few better places to wait out the rest of time.

Verdict: Stripped-back yet somehow still cinematic

Duncan Haskell

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