The lineup: Stewart Green (music, production).
The background: Stewart Green is a young musician from Sheffield. Between Phillip Oakey and Alex Turner – those two Steel City archetypes, the one fascinated by future sonics and electronic circuity, the other prone to grittily barking northern colloquialisms over pedestrian guitar strums – he's more like the former than the latter. But the music he makes as Carnivals isn't mainstream synth-pop designed for the charts, it's marginal electronica that will appeal to fans of everything from shoegazing and prog to glitchstep and witch house.
We don't know much about him apart from that he released his first EP, Mavi Kara, in February last year, after which he left university (in Sheffield) to travel to India by himself for about six months, during which trip he seems to have experienced something of an epiphany, the ecstatic nature of which he attempts – quite successfully we might add – to capture on his latest EP, Humility. "Humility is the soundtrack to the Indian Ocean voyage I undertook last summer," he explains. "Endless days spent with just the limitless sky and the relentless ocean underpin the inspiration to these tracks. Written half at sea and half at home, Humility embodies all the highs and lows of my adventure."
The music on the Mavi Kara EP moved between moody atmospherica and drifting dronescapes, both with the accent on darker textures and the more atonal and angular type of ambient. One track (Leeda) leaned towards industrial hip-hop and featured backwards guitar that made it sound like the missing link between the Beatles and Burial. The idea, apparently, was to reflect "the industrial heart of Sheffield" and "the electronic lining of its smoke-laden skies" (it was actually voted "the world's cleanest industrial city", but we'll let it slide).
On the Humility EP, things take a turn for the evanescent and, frankly, gorgeous. Opening track Contrails is Green's best work yet – better even than the otherworldly tribalisms of recent single Absences and the Paul Simon-in-space, Gracelands-via-Saturn liquid Afro-pop of its "flipside" Ino (Parts 1 & 2). No, with its vocals-as-vapour-trails and the murky, ghostly mix barely concealing a lovely chord sequence mapped out by whatever instrument or effect Green employs to approximate the sighs of angels and the twinkles of seraphim, it is within breathing distance of the creepy beauty of Balam Acab, high praise indeed. French Tongues is also no slouch in the gossamer shimmer department, while Quiescence Interlude is 100 seconds of the sort of guitar radiance you might have expected from Durutti Column in 1980, and features a voice that sounds like a phantasm, or ectoplasm, whichever is thinner and less substantial. Departners is the one that everyone – and by everyone we mean bloggers super-attuned to developments in underground electronica – is going mad for. And you can see why, with its gauzy, hazy ambience and voice treated and tweaked until it no longer sounds human. In the process, of course, that barely-there half-voice actually says more about the human experience – about the sensations of awe and alienation, rapture and dread – than any amount of passionate exhorting. It must have been a good trip.
The buzz: "Blissfully meandering" – One for the People.
The truth: Excellent electronica from the north's cleanest city.
Most likely to: Open his heart.
Least likely to: Be a mardy bum.
What to buy: The Humility EP will be available to download from 7 August. Departners is available to stream and download now from SoundCloud.
File next to: Durutti Column, Balam Acab, D/R/UG/S, No Ceremony///.
Friday's new band: Stealing Sheep.
Making sites popular is about more than Twitter and Facebook. Burgess Powers makes social: personal