If you have suddenly found yourself with ample time in isolation to dwell on life’s sorrows, be prepared to delve only deeper. Today we bring to you the premiere of Bones and String, the debut EP of Melbournian art-rock band The Sunken Sea. The six-piece ensemble brings together the sounds of frontman Dougal James on bass and vocals, Matt Si on guitar, Ben Fleming on drums, Cian Bennet and Lucas Wilson-Harrison with the horn section, and Hannah McKittrick spinning up a dreamscape on synth. The nature of the record precedes itself by name, the product of a soul strung out and stripped down to the bone.
The six-track EP is delivered enclosed in the thematic envelope of Robert Street where singer-songwriter Dougal grew up, bringing a poignant and almost bildungsroman-like quality to a record built in bedrooms over two years. The first track, simply titled ‘Robert Street’, brings with it a tidal wave of uplifting and anthemic melodies which must, inevitably, crash down again. This constructive and deconstructive tide underpins the entire record, mimicking the throes and triumphs of existence. The final track, ‘Leaving Robert Street’, stands as a stripped-back structural reprise of its namesake, a ghost of the opening melody, an ode to bones held together with string.
The sullen sounds of The Sunken Sea have oft been described as ‘brooding’, and for good reason. Dougal’s deep baritone vocals tap into a universal woe to weave together a smothering blanket of life’s lamentations. The first line of the record is delivered in the second track with a formal introduction: “Hello, I’m feeling pretty hollow.” This rationale reverberates through each piece, set to a background of eerie keys and scattered drums.
The huge mid-record track ‘Blame’ draws on the strengths of the entire ensemble. A layered crescendo brings with it the accompanying vocals of Cian, the tremors of cymbal-heavy drums, and a choral horn section. The burgeoning questions delivered in falsetto of the preceding track, ‘All Your Words’, are replaced with an almost guttural vocal release in ‘Blame’ as Dougal completely surrenders himself to this continuous interplay between despair and desperation.
“I am bones and string, tumbling into the kitchen sink…”
The eponymous track, ‘Bones and String’, lays that haunting piano accompaniment underneath a lyrical testament to self-reflection in the domestic environment. By way of lamenting suburban life and projecting friends as “dysfunctional uncles”, Dougal commits to self-construction through introspection at the precipice of conventional adulthood. The record reaches its climax with apology and concession: The Sunken Sea is sorry - for wallowing, for everything.
‘Leaving Robert Street’ concludes a record composed of idiosyncratic influences and differential despair. The final petering piano piece echoes with muted sounds of movement which not only speaks to the candid imperfections we love from bedroom rock, but triggers the memory of a heart pulsing on an ultrasound, a muffled beat breathing life, a return to that bare-bone and brooding essentialism.
You can stream The Sunken Sea’s ‘Bones and String’ below and it’s available for purchase on Bandcamp now.