Sun Lo (ATTLAS, Richard Walters) Shares The Expansive Debut Album ‘Shapes In My Head’
April 28, 2023 BY Jason Currell
What began as a lockdown experiment between two distant friends connecting over the internet today comes to fruition in Sun Lo’s debut album, Shapes In My Head. Despite never meeting in person, Canadian producer/DJ Jeff Hartford aka ATTLAS, and British songwriter Richard Walters unveil an atmospheric blend of downtempo indie-electronica. The ten-song experience is loosely inspired by Kazuo Ishiguro’s best-selling sci-fi novel Klara and the Sun. Like the book, Sun Lo writes about life from an AI-perspective and touches on how technology relates to the human world. Considering the rise in AI and its impact on our lives, this subject has become more relevant now than ever. Listen to Shapes In My Head on all digital retailers (here).
The album serves as both a glance towards a dystopian future and a time capsule from the trying times of the pandemic. Lyrics reflect both the plight of its AI protagonist and the frustration of lockdown: “Dreaming in monochrome and sepia / sometimes blue and red bleed in,” sings Walters on “Lately.” But there’s a positivity to the album too, an uplifting quality that suggests a bright future for the relationship between humans and AI — as well as a fruitful partnership between Jeff Hartford and Richard Walters.
Shapes In My Head, the debut album from Sun Lo, is out now via Nettwerk.
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ABOUT SUN LO:
Shapes in My Head is the debut album by Sun Lo, a collaboration between multitalented Canadian producer ATTLAS and acclaimed British vocalist Richard Walters. Bringing together two likeminded artists who have never even met in real life, the album demonstrates a synergy between the seemingly disparate musical worlds of the club, the orchestra, and the singer-songwriter.
Jeff Hartford grew up in Toronto playing piano, trumpet, guitar, bass and banjo — instruments which still play a part in his compositional techniques today. He listened to Beethoven and briefly worked as an assistant for a Hollywood film composer but started releasing music as ATTLAS in 2015 after sending some demos to the Canadian electronic giant deadmau5. He went on to become one of the most celebrated artists ever to sign to deadmau5’s label mau5trap, releasing a string of EPs through the imprint as well as three albums.
Among his mau5trap releases was his second album Out There With You, released at the height of lockdown in late 2020. Richard Walters was one of the record’s many fans, and soon after its release he reached out to Hartford on Twitter, striking up a conversation which before long led to an exchange of ideas. “I think it was very soon after some of those first conversations that there were folders being sent to Richard,” Hartford remembers. “The folder that Jeff initially sent me was about 30 to 40 pieces of music,” Walters adds. “I could have written something to every single one of them.”
Walters grew up in Oxford, England, and spent his teens singing with several different bands. He began releasing as a solo artist in 2007, releasing five successful albums and collaborating with a myriad of talents including The Cranberries’ guitarist Noel Hogan, British poet laureate Simon Armitage in the band LYR, and even Oscar-nominated actor and singer Florence Pugh.
The connection between Walters and Hartford was immediate. They bonded over a shared taste in music, discussing everyone from Talk Talk to John Hopkins to Moderat to Neil Young. “We haven’t met yet,” Walters says. “But I feel like I know Jeff really well, just through our conversations about music.”
Walters began adding scratch vocals to the tracks Hartford had sent him, a variety of ambient and club compositions that provided the bedrock of their creative process. During their exchanges they began talking about Ishiguro’s novel Klara and the Sun. Noticing parallels between the AI’s separation from the human world and life in the time of Covid-19, Walters and Hartford built their own narrative, written from the perspective of an AI living among people.
The idea allowed Hartford to indulge a side to his musicianship which is not often appreciated in the electronic scene. “I was really fortunate to be able to do electronic music, but the real impetus for me getting into music was the singer-songwriter stuff,” he says. “I think that’s why the project was so exciting, because I got to flex those singer-songwriter intuitions that I had always preferred to lean towards, and then use all the technology and production tools I had learned after a bunch of years working in studios.”
For Walters too, writing from a new perspective was a revelation. “The AI story arc was a gift. It allowed me to put an emotional layer between myself and the song,” he says. “So the lyrics have ties to me and my life and my experiences, but they’re not so confessional or wrung out.”
Shapes In My Head Track List:
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