With nods to both country music and Latin folk, “Blood Drive” explores the distance between the everyday and the apocalyptic: something as routine as having one’s blood taken becomes a crisis, prompting a fight-or-flight anxiety attack and thoughts of the end of the world.
Echoes of Jose Gonzalez, The National and Bon Iver are evident, and the song’s simplicity is enhanced by the layering of curious noises such as a TV spluttering in the distance, organs with endless delays, banjos and vocoder.
Burnside released his debut album Ephrata on 5 May via Quiet Arch Records. Written in a burst of a few weeks whilst living in northern Colombia, the songs on the album deal with a diverse range of themes, from PTSD and technophobia, to larger questions about time, love and death in the modern age. Balanced with a diverse palette of sounds, Burnside deftly blends alt-folk and elements of the Irish folk song tradition with South American and Eastern European influences, whilst introducing synthetic and found-sounds, synths loops and crunching beats to create a stormy world that shifts and swirls perspective like a lingering lucid dream.
In need of a change of scene and creative stimulus, Burnside stayed with his cousin who was living in Colombia for a few months. He had no money when he went out there so he borrowed a small classical guitar and started writing the album. He even played with a local Cumbia group (mixing traditional African dance music with European instrumentation) and soaked up the rhythmic influences, most notably in songs such as “26th Street” (named after the street in Bogota where the political satirist Jaime Garzon was assassinated) and “fightorfight” (featuring guest vocals from Hozier cellist and backing vocalist Alana Henderson).
Burnside’s contemporary influences include bands such as Sun Kil Moon, Dirty Three, The Books and The Microphones, but this year has also found himself listening to a variety of old tapes, with the incongruous mixture of Dick Gaughan, Talking Heads, Toto La Mompasina and The Cure creeping into his own sound.
A multi-instrumentalist, Burnside played most of the sounds on the album but was also joined by a number of collaborators and producers with whom he’s worked with over the past few years, most of whom play for different people and have their own solo projects. These include his brother Connor on drums and percussions, electronic solo artist Rachael Boyd on violin and synths, Clark Phillips on bass and Sarah Martin on trumpet.