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Hangover Square - When You (A Lovely Coincidence)

5 May 2024

It is a rare pleasure when you hear a song by an unknown artist, unknown to you that is, and you find yourselves falling head over heels in love with it, right from the off. It hasn’t happened to me for a long time, but it did when I heard “Softest of Silks,” my first taste of Bristolian duo, Hangover Square. Now they are back with “When You”, and I can’t say that my feelings for their music have diminished at all; in fact, quite the opposite.

“When You” is one of those songs for which the usual generic tags and musical labels aren’t sufficient. It is music made beyond the scope of everyday music journalism, but I will try my best. Vocally, the song leans into blends of Eastern vibes and choral grandeur that immediately put you in mind of people like Lisa Gerard, both with Dead Can Dance and in her solo career, that same uniting of operatics and world music, classical and contemporary sounds, tradition and invention. But from a composition point of view, the use of vocal – often just as an instrument rather than a direct means of communication; it’s function to be heard, not understood, not in terms of language at least – reminds me of Karl Jenkins approach to such counterpoint.

But then, the music which drives these lush vocals comes from a different place altogether, when it is there at all. Bluesy guitar spirals and haunted country vibes are all that tether this song to the real world, and the result is a strange blend of East and West, the Occident meeting the Orient to create something global in its sonic scope, truly of, from and about this world.

Perhaps that is what world music actually is. Perhaps it is not a label to be attached to reappropriated regional music and borrowed cultural traditions; perhaps the term is better levelled at music that brings sonic strands from across the world together into something new, wonderfully unique, and truly culturally uniting—music like “When You.”