Ethio

Steven Dayvid McKellar

Sonic Ritual Records, 2020

http://stevendayvidmckellar.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/05/2020

Founder, frontman, and primary songwriter for the South African indie rockers Civil Twilight Steven Dayvid McKellar is taking the solo route for the first time on Ethio. The now Nashville resident is staying quite busy while his full band is on hiatus.

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Certainly a quieter affair than his work with Civil Twilight, on Ethio, McKellar focuses on melody and rhythm – often from a slow burning angle – but he's never in short supply on imaginative moments that make each of the eight tunes present worth spending considerable time with.

“Don't Ask Me Why” leads off the expressive listen with minimal instrumentation as McKellar's versatile vocals guide the bare but rich opener. This creativity follows on the percussively strong and highly creative “Keep It Safe,” a tune that really highlights McKellar's charming falsetto. Similarities to Thom Yorke's solo work are present, and I'm sure we could all agree that that could never not be a compliment.

Further along, the bare and mesmerizing “Call It What You Like” benefits greatly from synth flourishes amid the breathy vocals in its intimate nature, while “The Promise” moves into fuller territory as McKellar builds an eloquent, lush electronic filled landscape of adventurous song craft.

The album finishes strong with the chilling and atmospheric “Asleep At The Wheel,” where some subtle post-punk is detectable and appreciated. “Even The Bird” exits the listen sparse and warm before building into a playful and experimental conclusion of sonic playfulness.

A record where McKellar handles everything behind the scenes, too, including painting the cover art, he makes much audible art here with a drum machine, keyboard synth, acoustic guitar, and bass alongside very poetic lyricism. Somewhere between electro-pop and indie rock, fans waiting for the next Civil Twilight record would be wise spend to get comfortable with Ethio and pay attention.

Rating: B

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