SixToes’ atmospheric second album mixes beautiful string arrangements with brooding and powerful vocals to showcase a band at their peak
t has been six years since SixToes’ debut album Trick Of The Night and with the release of follow-up The Morning After the band presents a new stripped back sound full of moody instrumentation. Cello notes engulf the appropriately titled opener Intro and introduce the eerie undertone that dominates the album, a mood reminiscent of Five Leaves Left-era Nick Drake.
String arrangements provide the backdrop to all the songs, with the aforementioned cello joined by a roll call of violin, guitar and mandolin. It is probably doing the band an injustice to say that this is a more mature album than the playful Trick Of The Night, but you can’t help but feel that the sound has been refined. Accurately described as chamber-folk, the matching of these simple strings (and accordion on album closer The Welcoming) with David Greenep’s grumbling purr of a voice gives the songs a gentle power.
Fleeing the city to write and record in an abandoned barn in Norfolk, the band has written an album which, in their words is “the processing, lamentation, reconciling and celebration of many years of disparate relationships and experiences, living in London”. Since releasing their last album, SixToes have remixed Grinderman and Depeche Mode as well as writing and arranging strings for Josh T Pearson’s Last Of The County Gentleman. With that connection made, it is easy to hear similarities between the two albums: the song Zen Box, in particular, manages to marry sparse strings with expansive vocals in a manner of which the bearded Texan would be proud.
David Gahan himself turns up on Low Guns, the most lavishly orchestral song on the album. Having enjoyed the remixes SixToes had done for Depeche Mode he decided to repay the favour and provides backing vocals and harmonica for his fellow brooding brothers as they sing their lament “low guns thunder, rolling over, rocking under us”. Throughout this album the lyrics are superb and full of subtle references with a gothic feel, especially on standout track Nobody Inn with mention of William S Burroughs’ “mugwump” and “Pinocchio’s confession box”.
Rather than feeling too one-paced or stripped-back, The Morning After has the feel of both a morning meditation and an afternoon ponder being played out at the same time. It’s the sound of a band who have mastered their craft.
Verdict: A stirring album full of gothic menace.