H. R. Gibs, Contributor.
What Pascal will not survive remains unnamed and unseen up to this point. Adopting the alias in 2016, Danny McClelland, best-known as Jealous of the Birds’ lead guitarist (or perhaps for his towering stature, distinctive facial hair and freshly bleached purple hair) prepares to release his second EP into the world. Pascal, an alter ego of sorts, exists for McClelland as a “hipster dude who lives in a boat and records music off his phone”. However far from reality Pascal may be, McClelland shares his affinity for DIY production on an old iPhone. Castaway, released a mean seven months after the previous collection Lost At Sea, was created in one month in New Jersey alongside Jamie Hewitt (credited producer) whilst the pair were on tour with Jealous of the Birds. This solo project allows McClelland his own creative outlet with Castaway being dubbed a “spiritual follow up” to May’s EP (see oceanic semantic field).
Releasing into the fast-paced Belfast music scene on the 6th December, Castaway is a neat four-track conceptual piece of “the post-mortem analysis of love after loss and the self-preservation that follows”. It is raw and vulnerable, the lo-fi production simultaneously confining and highlighting the emotion here. Each of the songs takes on a new phase of the turmoil of sitting in that immediate post-loss room, the love and fear of aloneness, the existential dread of being in your 20s, the insecurity of it all and the coming to an acceptance of a new beginning. Music like this, local indie music which is made by those familiar faces you rub shoulders with in the streets of Belfast is completely separate from the chords that make up the songs or the words which can be written about them. Music like this, which must be felt, must be listened to in order to be understood.
The EP is bookended with the imagery of ripped clothing; the opening track ‘Scarface T-shirt’ is reminiscent of classic indie bands such as Tokyo Police Club. Its five-minute duration is synth-dominated, talking of the bitter sweet elation of being alone (“I’ll never be alone / cause I’m always on my own”) and the decision to fix some things like an old ripped t-shirt (“I’ll sew it up when it’s torn”) and not others, namely a love gone wrong (“a smile, a kiss, I’m letting go”). If track one is elation, track two ‘La La La’ feels like an existential in between, its imagery shifting between nightmare and dream, holding on and letting go, with a change of musical pace two minutes in, from fast and angry to mellow. The ending crumples like the page of an aural journal entry being discarded.
This, then gives way to ‘Death Pvrty’: faster, sweeter, lyrically repetitive, bouncing on a foundation of the insecurity that comes with love. It is the resentment of boredom, the mundanity of sleeping, the need to be seen always. It is this third track which truly captures Castaway’s central concept: looking back on love after it is lost (“every time I fall in love I fall so hard / every time we fall apart, I fall apart”). For what comes next is a conclusion in the form of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Forever Sad’. The ripped jeans of track four echo of ‘Scarface T-shirt’, ending where the EP started, like the opening and closing of the same door. This final song is softer, truly pensive and a musical answer to an emotional acceptance to take things on the chin. The second half of this song transcends over the entire EP, forming a mantra turned overture of “it’s ok, don’t run”. It is a somewhat quiet epilogue, the most stripped back segment by far, with admittances of being forever sad and an ambiguous look at what comes next, for both Pascal and his listeners.
Castaway collects a month of emotions which over the course of 4 songs flare, swell and fade to a peaceful conclusion. Its free verse lyricism, more poetic in some tracks than others. It feels like coming to terms with disappointments, great perhapses and also just like being in your 20s – a little confusing, but full and alive and now.