Duncan Lloyd – Outside Notion

Duncan Lloyd is a busy man. The guitarist and principle songwriter of Maximo Park, as well as making up 50% of Nano Kino, releases his third solo album, Outside Notion, on June 7th. Following 2017’s acclaimed IOUOME, Outside Notion is a record that’s full of surprises, sonic sorcery and sharp, sensitive lyrics. A departure from the Indie-Rock that Maximo Park fans will associate with Lloyd, Outside Notion is sometimes sparse, sometimes swirling and sometimes soaring in its arrangements. 

Speaking on its composition, Lloyd says “On this album things have taken a little more time to process, I wanted the dots to join and for it to work as one piece, each song being a window into something deeper. Be it in the form of mental escapism or loss for example, admittedly it’s not always clear what I’m channeling but it felt right to follow what has been bubbling under for a while. In turn it made greater sense of the writing process & where I can take it. Ultimately, I like that there is still a sense of ambiguity in these songs, not everything needs to be spelt out or to make immediate sense as life isn’t like that.

Photo: Andy Martin

The bowing intro of Historic Elements breaks into warm guitar, soothing vocal and high key notes. It’s overtly inviting but deceptively catchy. Bringing you nicely into the exiguous opening of 5am Eyes. It gathers pace like a delicate rain with enchanting string arrangements. Intertwining with the vocals to create something that is genuinely quite special. Bringing in string arranger Amy May, who has worked with John Cale, Aphex Twin and The Xx. Lloyd wanted to use strings to bring pastoral elements into the picture. Influenced by the likes of Vaughan Williams and Scott Walker, it’s a track that covers a lot of ground and feels more expansive than its sub 4-minute run time would have you believe. 

“I want to transport the listener in some way then bring them back down, there’s a different kind of layering, some elements hypnotic, some elements wider, less predictable and then space.”

Duncan Lloyd

Even with the departure from his usual sound, the core of the album is unmistakably Duncan Lloyd. Tracks like Planetarium and Young Dreams will be welcomed with open arms by fans Maximo Park. The latter’s classic arrangement providing the perfect framework to build a cosmic soundscape around. 

The title track sees Lloyd joined on vocals by his Nano Kino collaborator Sarah Suri and a wonderful observation of the declining coastal towns of the U.K. Til’ The Fear Breaks is the track that stands closest to his traditional template before switching to an almost trad-folk sound on Guess and Wonder. The record plays out with First, Monday. An off-kilter number that drifts between a straight up rocker and soaring orchestral piece. Lloyd literally bidding you Goodbye. 

Outside Notion is a refined album that’s not afraid to step out of the box and its author’s comfort zone. A record of beautiful sounds that conveys poignant content for those willing to turn their ear a little harder. With his next solo work apparently already underway. I hope Lloyd returns to plough this rewarding furrow. 

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