Karl Culley – Redshift
Independent – Out Now
In 2018 Karl Culley announced he was quitting music by releasing the emphatically named double album Last! Thankfully, it proved a false ending to his musical story as he returns with a five-track EP entitled Redshift. As Culley himself says, ‘You can take the man out of the music, but you can’t take the music out of the man.’ It’s often a mystery why people choose to continue to write and perform music and where the inspiration comes from. With this EP, there’s a sense of Culley having a deep need to say more and what better way to express it than through music?
Track one, The Sea, starts with Culley’s characteristically impressive fingerpicking. At only 1:34 minutes, it’s the shortest song on the EP. It pays homage to the incredible power of the sea and nature, whose vastness can conjure feelings of insignificance alongside the realisation that our lives have both meaning and importance. The sonic sounds combine wonderfully with the guitar creating a power that echoes that of the object of the song title.
Marked is my personal favourite; a delightful pattern on the guitar leads us to the intriguing opening line ‘My heart breaks for the 16th time, by now my blood should be going blind’. Again there are references to life struggles and how we can feel branded as being doomed to misfortune. However, our weaknesses and perception of things often create this illusion.
Offering a more upbeat affair, Forgo The Night has a fast cutting rhythm complementing the scratchily strummed guitar. Here Culley examines ideas of difficulties and fear. ‘It’s about the abstraction of fear, and about the real possibility of overcoming inherited anxiety and cultural shackles,’ says Culley.
Unfortunately, the themes of confinement and unhealthy bonds are prevalent themes arising from the ‘closing in’ of the recent COVID period. I Let Go deals with these challenges that have always existed, pandemic or not. In a sombre tone, he sings, ‘What are you doing here? What am I doing here?’ When relationships have become more toxic than nourishing, we may often ask such questions.
Finishing on a defiant note, The Soul is the King, is an optimistic ending where Culley explores the importance of the soul. ‘My drinking is under control but what about the soul?’ stresses that physical power and material needs amount to nothing if the soul is not strong. ‘If the mind is the prince, then the soul is the king’ once more emphasises the importance of the soul in maintaining a healthy balance in life.
The study of deep existential questions appears to continue to inspire the man and the musician. Long may it continue.
Watch the accompanying video for The Sea featuring dancer Katarzyna Krzysztofek and filmed at Abecadło bookshop, Kraków, Poland.
The EP precedes a full-length album planned for release later this year. Redshift is available to stream now.