A reflective, warming album about the choices we make and why we make them **** The Times
On his latest album David Gray proves again he is no average troubadour **** Daily Telegraph
Built around piano, cello, guitar and the stunning six part harmonies of Gray and his band, the songs are cinematic **** Daily Mail
Skellig the new album from David Gray is out today on digital formats via Laugh a Minute Records / AWAL Recordings, with a vinyl and CD release to follow on May 14, 2021. The second LP to be produced by Ben de Vries, the thirteen-track album departs from the shimmering electronics of 2019’s Gold In A Brass Age and embarks on a sparser, communal soundscape. Recorded at Edwyn Collins’ Helmsdale studio on the Sutherland coast (with artwork created by former art school graduate Gray himself), the atmospheric songs centre around six-part vocals with Gray trading his signature gravel for a softer tone. Today’s digital release is accompanied by the new video for ‘Laughing Gas’ – streaming here – and footage of David in conversation about the themes which play into the new record, which is now available here.
The songs captured on Skellig are a blend of old and new. ‘Laughing Gas’ found its home after Gray finally found a form that felt suited since its beginnings in 2003, a piano-led motif supported by the drone of a cello, brought to life by the tight-knit group harmonies. The track – which is today released alongside mesmeric NASA footage of earth filmed from space – was the first to be written that places as much importance on creating space in-between as to what’s poured in.
Skellig takes its name from a formation of precipitous rocky islands off the coast of Co. Kerry, the most westerly point in Ireland. Ravaged by the Atlantic, the seemingly un-inhabitable location of Skellig Michael became an unlikely site of pilgrimage in 600AD for a group of monks, who believed that leading such a merciful existence, they would leave the distraction of the human realm to be ultimately closer to God. Gray asks for no literal translation of the above, nor prescribes any religious allegiance – but the story, told to him by a friend, has haunted his imagination ever since:
“The more I contemplated the idea of a small group of people landing on those rocks and establishing a monastic life there, the more overpowered I became by a dizzying sense of awe. How close to God could you possibly wish to get? Life must have been unbelievably hard for them and trying to fathom the deep spiritual conviction that compelled them to escape the mediaeval world lead me to acknowledge my own deepest longings to be free of all the endless human noise that we now so readily accept as being such an inescapable part of our day to day lives. Dreams of revelation, dreams of a cleansing purity, dreams of escape. Ideas that I think almost any 21st century person shouldn’t find it too hard to relate to!”
The multi-vocal layering weaving across Skellig came to Gray during 2013’s Sounding Out Tour, where he recruited members of his live band – including Caroline Dale, David Kitt and Rob Malone – to experiment on his back-catalogue alongside him. Gathering up Dale, Kitt and Malone, and with the addition of Niamh Farrell, Mossy Noalan and de Vries, Gray ventured up to the Scottish Highlands to live out the creation of the record. Welcomed by the kindness of Edwyn Collins, his wife and son, the small, intimate studio felt a fitting location for a record eager to celebrate its Celtic affinity.