The latest EP from 20-year-old singer-songwriter Paul Thomas Saunders is a shimmering kaleidoscope of eerie nostalgia and twinkling pianos, which, despite its melancholy air, manages to evoke optimism and euphoria in its hypnotic beats. Named after the area on the nearside of the moon on which Apollo 16 landed in 1972, Descartes Highlands finds Saunders and the subjects of his songs lost in a lunar landscape, punctuated by dreamy, ethereal hymns which are both tranquil and evocative and lift you to astronomical heights within their opening bars.
On ‘Trail Remains Unseen’, the gentle, slow piano provides a haunting, dainty backdrop to lyrics in which Saunders speaks of sweeping landscapes, fields, oceans and coastlines and teenage love. His vocals transform from a slow, measured pace to a soaring crescendo, showcasing a range that would surely have choirs up and down the country begging Thomas to join them.
‘A Lunar Veterans Guide To Re-Entry’ takes things up a notch, with strong thumping drums, upbeat guitars and a distinct electronic sound, as Saunders draws subtle parallels between the object of his affection and the moon in the title – ‘You were the light/ And you’d shine’. Saunders’ repetitive ethereal calls gently make way for a ticking, strumming close.
‘Let The Carousel Display You & I’ moves us into a slow, hypnotic waltz, with Saunders’ waveringly high vocals creating a beautiful requiem, reminiscent of lost post-britpop favourites Thirteen Senses and Art Garfunkel’s ‘Bright Eyes’. The delayed ambience of ‘Santa Muerte’s Lightning & Flare’ with its dreamy layered vocals, a graceful tone and tingling harmonies brings things to a majestic end. This finely crafted collection is such a delicate work of art that we can’t wait for a full-length album.
Words: Jo Garwood