Music

Tunng Explore the Strangeness of Humanity on 'Songs You Make at Night'

Photo: Eva Vermandel / Courtesy of Riot Act Media

For all their wonderfully alien sonic elements, Tunng is a band that's human to the core and can interpret the inherent weirdness of life in a way that makes its strangest moments some of its most comforting.

Songs You Make at Night
Tunng

Full Time Hobby

24 August 2018

"It's a beautiful dream." So goes the chorus that ends "Dream In", the first track on Tunng's new album, the appropriately titled Songs You Make at Night. Every track takes the group's out-of-the-box folktronica deeper into the dark hours, mixing hope, gloom, and unfailingly pleasant sounds that make for a solid and intimate album - the first to feature the full original lineup, including founding members Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders, in over a decade.

Songs You Make at Night is rife with the eccentricities that give Tunng's brand of otherwise fairly straightforward pop music its particular charms. Inventive samples abound thanks to band member Phil Winter, who incorporates everything from birdsong to the words of late British porn star Mary Millington into an album of careful shadows and structured dreamscapes.

"Dream In" sets the stage with a hint of sobering existentialism ("It is the strangest world / We're living in") that only heightens the necessity of escapism ("The people running 'round / With rainbow skulls / Each one contains a separate world"). Tunng plays with this duality for the rest of the album. "ABOP" begins with tight beats and the aforementioned vintage Millington samples, mechanics and romance. It finds Lindsay's narrator in a thoroughly mundane situation - restless, lying in bed, "the hum of daytime TV / moans like the walking dead" - and then transported into the surreal by sheer longing for something different. Distant voices echo these cravings for the magical, building upon ever more insistent synths that finally give way to ethereal strings.

This exploration of wandering minds permeates the rest of the album. "Sleepwalking" serves up soulful harmonies and psychedelic lyrics, marveling at the creativity to be found in any given human's subconscious life. Tunng bridges the gap between physical and metaphysical realms with compassion and reverence for humanity where many bands show a much narrower, more negative view of our species. In that regard, Songs You Make at Night serves to place Tunng as spiritual kin to peak Moody Blues or Rotary Connection.

Musically, though, Tunng remains in a class of its own. Blissful "Crow" combines sedate acoustic guitar with the sound of the titular animal; Lindsay's soft, unadorned vocal delivery grounds the piece as those synths return to add more atmosphere. "Dark Heart" stands out as the album's center of gravity, a more driving electronic piece that runs headfirst into the less enchanting elements of life, the moments of fear and anxiety - and then reminds the song's audience that even those experiences are universal, and can be seen not just as hard times, but as human bonding. This is a fight song, a peace song, and, ultimately, a meditation: observe the darker feelings, says Tunng, and remember that they bind the world together.

"Battlefront" is a pensive waltz set to rolling thunder; "Flatland" bemoans a life homogenized by digital artifice as an eerie mix of guitar arpeggios and not-quite-natural sounds take the album further from reality. While "Nobody Here" is another moment of melancholy, "Evaporate" fittingly pulls the album upward, invoking light, soil, and birds as Tunng finds strength in being rooted. "May you never be alone in this darkness," sing all the vocalists together. "Like Water" shimmers, transcendent as it leads into coda "Dream Out", a final touch of magic as the night comes to a close.

Tunng might be folk. Tunng might be electronica. Tunng might be all of it and then some. What matters is the fresh musical perspective that, time and time again, the group brings to the table, one that sees beauty in all parts of the world and embraces it. Songs You Make at Night exemplifies the philosophies, aural and otherwise, that make Tunng a band that is easy to appreciate. For all their wonderfully alien sonic elements, Tunng is a band that's human to the core and can interpret the inherent weirdness of life in a way that makes its strangest moments some of its most comforting.

9
Music
Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Books
Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Film
Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Recent
Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.