In an industry inundated with typical singer/songwriter concoctions and band dynamics, it’s rare to see artists even getting close to hitting that glass ceiling – never mind breaking it.
Shards is a London-based vocal group led by composer, singer and producer Kieran Brunt; their innovation lies in understanding that the voice is the most emotive instrument of all, and their success with their debut single “Summer Sickness” lies in understanding how to command it.
“Summer Sickness” is a glimpse of a wider sonic portrait that will be their album, Find Sound, to be released later this summer. The track, which has been premiered by Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC Radio 6, is an exploration into detachment. “Summer Sickness” is being a bystander to the supposed happiness of the rest of the world, while feeling weighed down by your struggles with depression.
Brunt tells us: “I started with the idea of writing a version of the type of song you’d hear at the start of a teen movie, but with a jarring and unsettling feeling bubbling beneath the surface. I love songs which are superficially upbeat and positive, but reveal a darkness and uncertainty upon closer inspection. MIA is one of my favourites for this, an artist who slipped serious messages into the pop mainstream by using bright, colourful sounds and images as a disguise.”
Brunt deliberately refrained from giving “Summer Sickness” the seamlessly smooth edge you’d expect from a vocal collective. Instead, each loose thread emphasises the individual; the textures are manifold, and give sincerity to its shimmer.
It is this that has proved an instant attraction to the likes of the pioneering minimalist composer, Terry Riley. His signature style of repetition can be found on “Summer Sickness”, with coruscating synth running through the veins of the song. It was Brunt’s involvement with Riley in 2016 that gave rise to the Barbican asking Brunt to form Shards. After their success at the ambient music festival, Possibly Colliding, the founder and composer Nils Frahm invited Shards to join him in Berlin for their personal contribution to his most recent album, All Melody. Shards have since gone on to collaborate with other notable artists, including Michael Price on his recent LP, Tender Symmetry.
Shards’ experiment in atmosphere on “Summer Sickness” is just a precursor to the musical and collaborative potential their future holds from here.