Ciaran Austin And His Summer Sketches

by Oliver Rose

Ambient Hip-hop is not normally my thing. However, as someone who performs locally, I can tell you it’s an exciting flavour to happen across in Exeter.

Ciaran Austin’s Summer Sketches series, available to stream on SoundCloud, represent an interesting amalgam of Oval-esque musical textures and contemporary British rap lyrics, with fascinatingly curated artwork to boot (you’ve got a big fan of the high modernist “blue period” vibes on Consequences, over here). Austin’s lyrics are cerebral and artistic, as concerned with painterly textures as the curious music. Frequently, the narrator is spiritually enlightened and light, but without sounding breezy, anchored by the beautifully bizarre arrangements and tangibility of his lyrical qualms.

The production on these recordings is also pretty remarkable; the digital percussion and delay effects are hypnotic and the lo-fi hiss of the package is wholesomely cottage-y. Movement blends lounge-jazz with minimal electronica; Show Me How makes a complication of what you think you can hear – is that saxophone and piano, or is it all synthesisers? The most obvious of these home recordings is Leaving Amsterdam (Freestyle), whose trippy electronic drums and reverb-laden soft synths recall the production touches of Justin Vernon or Richard D. James. Here though, “obvious” isn’t a sin; it’s a virtue; the Freestyle is smooth and the overall texture heart-warmingly artisanal.

Check these songs out, even if, like me, Hip-hop’s not your first choice genre – it’s refreshing to hear someone so committed to what they do, and in the vicinity too.