Sean Jewell of AST Records
on "Pink Into Grey"
Delving’s Pink Into Grey is the sound of acceptance. It took twenty-two band members and three years of seeking out sounds through the pandemic to find it. After years of teaching guitar professionally, and playing on a host of albums for others, bandleader Michael James has served up a debut album that digs through disappointment, with dogged positivity. He’s extracted a volume of songs that harken the heyday of indie music that gave us Snow Patrol, and Postal Service.
James is a kind, confident character, gregarious in person, but possesses a sophisticated touch and tone. With his gravitational pull he’s accumulated a core band that, in a breath, can expand to a cast of twenty one multi-instrumentalists who helped divine the sound of Delving.
Opening on the palette cleanser “Batten” with cinematic, panning, synthesizer, Pink Into Grey tiptoes on an arpeggio into it’s title track. Elegant violin dances with electric guitar and percussion greeting Michael James’ plain, personal delivery “Well it’s not what you think,” he sings “well it’s not what you think when the wheels spin slowly, and the knot in your head, well it all comes loose when you go to bed lonely”. A power pop kicks in and we’re off into Delving’s dense, decadent indie-rock.
What began as a live-on-the-floor recording session at the OK Theater in Enterprise, Oregon was finally completed with the help of Sacha Muller (Dead Aunt Thelma’s Recording Studio) and a cast of twenty one musicians almost three years later in 2022.
“Burgundy Eyes” rolls in on acoustic guitar and organ. Inspired by Daniel Steinbock’s Out Of The Blue album, songwriter Michael James says this song is “about a cycle completed, when the one you used to call yours is a stranger to you once more. Not a source of sadness or wistfulness –just another person in the world.” Featuring Rainbow Girls on backing vocals, and Sydney Nash (TK and the Holy Know Nothings) on slide guitar, piano, and hammond organ, the song illustrates James’ tones of nostalgia and acceptance.
On “Something Wrong” James and band have crafted one of the more powerful indie pop singles of the last twenty years. Capturing ringing electric guitar jangles, slushy, driving drums, and a climactic electric solo played by Brett Sisun, James remains resolute in a song about uncertainty, even while wailing “something wrong” and it’s so right.
“I hope you find something of yourself within it” -Michael James
“Sister Sun”, and “The Curtain” gives us the clearest picture of James’ own talent for guitar playing. James has played dependable, emotional guitar for luminary Caitlin Jemma in her band The Goodness all over America and Europe, and served as a studio session stalwart on many great records. Somehow the album's engineers (Sacha Muller, Jeremy Lyon, and James Meder) have found room in all the recordings for each instrument, and even imbued the album with delicate synthesizer intros, and wonderfully timed transitions.
James says about Delving’s album:
"Pink Into Grey" feels like a coin that I’ve been waiting to flip for three years.
One side is weighted by the story of the songs, the other by the story of making the album in the first place. This record was the only thing I spent any time or money on from 2020 to 2022. There’s a lot in it - and a lot that went into it - but ultimately I don’t long to define it anymore. The process of creating “Pink Into Grey,” completely challenged my artistic conceptions from start to finish. So the coin is finally ready to be tossed, we’ll see what it brings from here.”
By any measure, Pink Into Grey is resolute. It’s about openness to all things, accepting what comes, even when it’s not what you expect. Delving does not just say it, they show it. The massive band on Pink Into Grey exhibits a vast sonic range throughout its runtime, pillowy passages of sound that calm and comfort but never placate by asking the listener to chill. Instead, as their name suggests Delving reaches deep into swells of emotion, elation or otherwise, looking for the lesson. Where they don’t find it they create cairns –psychological landmarks– guiding the way through human experience.
Pink Into Grey becomes more than a listen by the closing threnody “Hymn for Lynn Lane”. James asks over swelling cymbals, electric guitar, and beautiful backing vocals “Is it any wonder? Could you hear the call? Would you wanna know by now? Could you know at all?”
Delving’s Pink Into Grey is out on American Standard Time Records now.
- Sean Jewell, Principal Raconteur of ASTR
Cottonwood Music Emporium Interview
CME interviews Michael James of Delving about his musical process and history.
Jan 3rd 2022 | READ HERE