Friday brings the release of the debut ‘Sentinel’ album from British synthpop / electro / chillwave master Richard Evans. This is music with a mission for the music veteran, who resides in England’s northern capital. Evans, who used to be the keyboardist in UK cult band James, as well as guitarist and songwriter for St. Vitus Dancers, earlier presented two singles in the lead-up to the big day – ‘Made of Stars’ and the Hiroshima/Nagasaki-inspired lead track ‘Black Rain’. The last time I recall a song somehow referencing these events was ‘Enola Gay’ by OMD, which, in retrospect, seems entirely too danceable given the subject matter.
Richard Evans, however, shares a common denominator with OMD in presenting music in a way that sheds light on a critical and misguided moment in 20th century history. Synthesizing intellectual lyrics with popular sensibilities, Evans’ music takes its inspiration from real-world subject matter and catastrophes.
“Sentinel is an electro-pop concept album. It’s important that art has something to say about the world we live in and there is no bigger issue than climate change. The album is my take on the different facets of the subject – from the impact of micro-plastics to the paranoia of COVID; from the origins of life to global climate protests, all in a pop package,” says Richard Evans.
On ‘Sentinel’, analogue synths and sequences are mixed with melodic vocal hooks and drum machine rhythms. Recorded during the COVID lockdowns, the album’s concept was spawned several years ago during an acclaimed multimedia live show that explores climate change in sound and light, featuring electronic music, video and data visualisation content. Originally commissioned by Manchester Science Festival with additional support from Arts Council England and Creative England, it has since been performed at festivals across the country.
The most recent of these – ‘Made Of Stars’ – stems from the theory that the building blocks of life on Earth come from space – we are made of stars. The lyrics are deliberately simple – words for “life” spoken in different languages – as vocoder vocals and sequenced synths, representing the different ways that life evolves. This song opens the album which is bookended by the final track ‘Constellation’ as its closing piece in keeping its celestial theme.
“This video for Made Of Stars, filmed by Jason Lock, is based on the live show where I perform inside a cube as video projections run on the screens. We wanted to capture the live experience which uses the cube as a centrepiece so that the music and visuals are the focus for a creative exploration of the impacts of climate change. For this song, the video content includes data visualisations of temperature rises over the last century and a beautiful melting sun animation, created specially for this project by award-winning artist Valentina D’Efilippo,” says Richard Evans.
As for the ‘Sentinel’ album, it includes eight easy-to-swallow tracks. Released via Cold Star Media, they collectively tell the story of humanity at a tipping point and a world trapped in a climate crisis. An electronic musician, writer and digital media artist with dual Irish-British citizenship, Richard Evans’ projects draw inspiration from real-world science, exploring biotechnology, machine intelligence and the environment. The accompanying video for ‘Black Rain’, which surrounds the same themes, was filmed at the University of Salford / MediaCityUK by Ashley Tidball, Timur Atilgan and Will Wood.
Since cutting his teeth on the UK music scene from the early 1980s to early 1990s, his independent creative projects have received nine awards from Arts Council England and a Business Development Award from Creative England, as well as being commissioned for various projects by the University of Manchester and the Manchester Science Festival.
Richard Evans’ output extends well beyond the musical realm. He wrote, directed and produced ‘AEON‘, a science fiction drama encompassing a smartphone app, web series and live events. A published author of many short stories, he also published the novel ‘KOSMONAUT ZERO’ (via Dead Ink), researched at Star City Cosmonaut Training Centre near Moscow. In 2011, Richard devised and directed the ‘Gagarin 50’ exhibition, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin.
‘Sentinel is out digitally on February 25 via online stores and streaming platforms, including Bandcamp. 180-gram vinyl can be pre-ordered exclusively through Diggers Factory. Limited to 300 copies, vinyl orders ship on April 22, depending on the number of orders required. Also, to mark the album’s release, Richard Evans performs Sentinel live at Oxford’s Old Fire Station on March 11.
Music, lyrics, vocals, programming by Richard Evans
Mixed by Hervé Girardin
Co-produced by Hervé Girardin & Richard Evans
Graphic design by Lee Baxter
Mastered by Digitalflesh Audio Mastering
With thanks to Arts Council England, Creative England, Manchester Science Festival, Waterside Arts and the University of Salford