FTSE remix Sivu’s ‘Better Man Than He’
Sivu’s debut album, ‘Something On High’ (October 14)
SINGLE: ‘Better Man Than He’
LIVE: Bombay Bicycle Club Tour, UK headline dates (Oslo, October 14)
Heartswelling acoustic dexterity and glittering electronics…irresistible” NME
“Heavenly…like one-man Wild Beasts” Guardian
“Insistent hooks and intricate soundscapes…a huge promise” Sunday Times
“Incredibly versatile: his sound is honest and progressive” i-D
“Off kilter, introspective, yet beautiful” Noisey
“A precocious talent…the results are quite inspiring” Clash
Sivu has announced plans for his debut album, ‘Something On High’, which will be released via Atlantic Records on October 13. This will be preceded by the official release of ‘Better Man Than He’, whose MRI-featuring video is approaching 1 million views, and follows support across Radio 1 (Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, Greg James, Phil & Alice), 6Music and XFM. Having been confirmed to support Bombay Bicycle Club on their forthcoming UK tour – featuring a huge date at Earls Court on December 13 – and played the likes of Reading and Bestival this summer, Sivu has announced an intimate UK tour for October (stopping at London’s Oslo on October 14).
Sivu has won widespread acclaim – and comparisons with the likes of Wild Beasts, Beck and Bombay Bicycle Club – for his idiosyncratic take on pop. This debut album, ‘Something On High’, is a beautiful set of starry, dark-night-of-the-soul symphonies: songs that shimmer with minor chord melodies and fluttering beats, but also move variously into aggression, orchestration or stillness.
The bulk of ‘Something On High’ was written in a period of transition for 24-year-old James Page. Originally from the sleepy town of St Ives, Cambridgeshire, Sivu had swapped his teenage dream of being in an Emo band for an admin job in Repossessions, when best mate, video director and future collaborator Adam Powell invited James to follow him down to London. The pair moved into a claustrophobic, twentieth floor ex-council flat in Kennington, where Sivu felt the emotional strains of this adjustment (and the guilt of what he’d left behind). Page entered a split role, working dead-end jobs by day – call centre, Topman stockroom – and crafting his own songs privately by night. The name Sivu, which is originally Finnish, emerged when searching for translation of his surname: strange but memorable, it’s a fitting snapshot of the conflicted and lyrically direct mirror-image that would become his solo alias.
Lyrically, ‘Something On High’ is a nuanced synthesis of the mundane with the divine. With his mind wondering amidst sales calls from the office, Sivu became fascinated with biblical stories (a topic which, not being religious, Page was surprised to find himself returning to). It’s a questioning which spans ‘Something On High’, from the heavier burst of recent single ‘Miracle (Human Error)’ to the Blur-like self-loathing of ‘Sleep’ (“I’m a lord / I’m apostle / I’m a plague / I’m the cruel part of life’s sleight of hand”) via the animals-walking-two-by-two march of ‘Bodies’ – which re-imagines Noah’s Ark as an urban apocalypse. “That song describes a time in my life when everything was a mess. I just loved the idea of wiping the slate clean.”
Sivu’s breakthrough moment came via a different sort of glimpse into his state of mind. The video for ‘Better Man Than He’, directed by flat mate Adam Powell, was recorded in an MRI machine live at St Barts Hospital, inspired by research into operational techniques for children born with a cleft palate. After Page spent two hours singing live within the scanner, the spellbinding results went viral: a deal with Atlantic Records followed, and M.I.A was among those who named it her video of the year. Though as revealing a first impression as ‘Better Man’ is, ‘Something On High’ goes further still. It was recorded over 18 months alongside Alt J producer Charlie Andrew, and saw the pair flesh out Page’s demos based on the blueprint of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers in the Night’. “That was the first song I ever played Charlie. I loved the romance of it and the beauty of those melodies, but I wanted there to be these fucked-up textures underneath all the songs as well.”
The resulting album takes its evocative title from Vincent Van Gogh’s Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’), which the Dutch post-impressionist finished two months before committing suicide. In letters, he described it as a meditation on how “the strongest pieces of evidence for the existence of ‘something on high’, namely in the existence of a God and an eternity, is…the fact that [anyone] can have moments of emotion that give him a sense of an eternal home that he is close to.“ This search for connection, meaning and identity are rife within Sivu’s debut album, a stunning soundtrack of time spent settling into a new city, young-adulthood, and the eternal search for – whatever it is – something on high.
October 14 Oslo, London *Headline Show*
October 15 The Hope, Brighton *Headline Show*
October 16 Soup Kitchen, Manchester *Headline Show*
October 17 Glad Cafe, Glasgow *Headline show*
BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB TOUR
December 3 Leicester, De Montfort Hall
December 4 Plymouth Pavillion
December 5 Bournemouth Bic Solent Hall
December 7 Manchester 02 Apollo
December 10 Wolverhampton Civic Hall
December 11 Edinburgh Usher Hall
December 12 Newcastle 02 Academy
December 13 London, Earls Court