Having recently announced a mid-May release for his self-titled second solo album, Summit Of The Big Low (aka the Canada-born but UK-raised indie-folk musician Toby Uffindell-Phillips) has today issued a second single from it for a song entitled ’Tearing Up The Darkness’.
Opening with an uptempo beat and a shimmering mandolin hook before the introduction of swelling brass, the bouncing rhythm is full of summery optimism, while the laidback vocal delivery carries a message that shines a light on isolation, and how a cry for help in the darkest of places can – when that call is answered – light up the sky.
The cover to the album (see below) depicts a Yin-Yang sign comprised of discarded cigarette butts. “My friend Lucy Pook was doing a series of these cigarette illustrations during lockdown and as soon as I saw this particular piece I knew I wanted the image to represent the music I was writing,” explains Toby. “From a distance, the artwork projects this beautiful ideological symbol of perfect harmony and balance, but up close you realise it can be broken down into these discarded objects that elude to an uglier, more sinister truth about humanity. Much like the songs on an album, it’s as if there is a story associated with each cigarette butt, where, for a snapshot in time, they were props in people’s lives.”
Each single from the new album also features one of Pook’s illustrations.
Dipping in and out of evocative residual memories (and maybe a few fictitious ones), Toby’s relaxed writing style utilises samples, atmospheric soundbeds and field recordings, setting scenes within which his lyrics explore themes that trouble or fascinate him. First single ’Dust’ had a clear anti-war message, while album opener ‘Battle Lines’ also urges the need to build bridges. Other songs, including ‘Between You And I’ and the new single, are more introspective, while ‘Blizzard Child’ is a questing desire to find a way back – geographically or metaphorically – to a place with a sense of belonging.
Having initially appeared in the early 00’s with folktronica group Sound Sanctuary, Toby’s songwriting and finger picking guitar style has evolved into a signature sound with a hazy, golden hour vibe. Transitioning from band to solo artist, he has increasingly flexed his muscles in the studio, recording much of his debut at home with assistance from past collaborators Bombay Monkey. This time around, he has produced the entirety of ‘Summit Of The Big Low’ himself, as well as playing and/or programming all the instrumentation. It is a solo record in the true sense of the word, with the exception of a vocal contribution from his sister on the song ‘Deep End’ (a family collaboration he was keen to repeat from his debut) and the sampled words of wisdom from meditation teacher Burgs that bookend ‘Blizzard Child’.
“The world is in flux and old structures seem to be collapsing, while it is unclear what will take their place,” Toby muses. “However, I am fascinated by the idea that in human endeavour and experience there is no beauty without ugliness, no simplicity or order without complexity and chaos, no integrity without corruption. Likewise, there is no despair without hope. In essence, life is not spent in the extremes, but in the journey that ebbs and flows between its summits and big lows. Making this record has helped me process some of the challenging moments in recent times. If others can relate, I hope it will help them feel connected in some way and that they are not alone on this ride.”
SUMMIT OF THE BIG LOW | Summit Of The Big Low album artwork
SUMMIT OF THE BIG LOW
1 Battle Lines
2 Blizzard Child (feat. Burgs)
4 Deep End
5 Between You And I
7 Tearing Up The Darkness
8 You Look Out For Me
9 Good For You
10 Reason Or Rhyme