“I don’t really know what happened back there, but it seems the doldrums and chaos may have been good for something,” states a bewildered Toby Uffindell-Phillips, reflecting on Brexit, the rise and fall of Trump, epidemics, a global warming tipping point and the threat of nuclear war. Following the March 2022 release of ‘Thin Air’, his debut album as Summit Of The Big Low, the Canada-born but UK-raised indie-folk musician has today announced a brand new collection of songs influenced by these world affairs and his own journey navigating through them.

The cover to the self-titled 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,” he explains. “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.”

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’ has a clear anti-war message that he stresses is about “the importance of seeing past face value differences to find common ground, with the line ‘if the dust don’t settle we’re all going to breathe it’ a reminder that no one is safe from the effects of conflict. The artworkutilises cigarette butts again to portray human narratives, in this case a stand off between opposing points of view.”

In a similar vein, album opener ‘Battle Lines’ urges the need to build bridges (“in the end it all boils down to how much you’re prepared to give and take”). Other songs are more introspective, with ‘Tearing Up The Darkness’ shining a light on loneliness and ‘Between You and I’ focusing on the need to feel loved with its poignant line “all I ever wanted, was to be wanted.” There are also moments that reflect on his early life, with ‘Blizzard Child’ 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.

“This record comes at a time when the world is in flux. I feel that at any minute another curve ball could come at you,” he muses. “At times it is disconcerting and scary, while there is mistrust and confusion as old structures seem to be collapsing and it is unclear what will take their place. 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 new album 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. The big picture is made up of little wins, so if it can pay forward any kind of positive action then that has to be a good thing.”

new single
out 10.02.23
(Friendly Tribe)

digital services  |  bandcamp

included on
self-titled album
out 19.05.23


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