Even before Colette and Hannah Thurlow wrote their new album, the London-based sisters’ atmospheric, imaginative and thrilling vein of rock music under the name 2:54 was already a force to be reckoned with. But the events that tested their commitment and resilience have upped the ante, to produce the magnificent drama and beauty of their second album The Other I, their first outing for new label home Bella Union.
From the expansive, tempo-shifting opener ‘Orion’, and the pining roots of ‘The Monaco’ to the ambient haunts of ‘Tender Shoots’ and the shape-shifting tour de force of ‘Raptor’, the album significantly widens the net beyond the achievements of 2:54’s self-titled debut. The Other I is all the stronger for Hannah and Colette’s hands-on approach to production (Hannah is multi-instrumental on the record) while Colette’s lead vocals show a striking versatility. The album’s emotional terrain has been carved from circumstances out of their control but equally their sisterly bond.
As Colette explains, the album’s title was inspired by a favourite poet, Percy Shelley, “a rousing romantic, politically charged, a proto-punk of sorts. He called his friend and muse Elizabeth Hitchener the ‘sister of my soul, my second self.’ These lines kept returning to me last year and from there I arrived at ‘The Other I’. The Other I is an enquiry into the duality of the human experience - the division between the self that pounds on like a juggernaut in your head, and the self you present to the world. The idea extends to Hannah and I, to our sisterhood. We know intrinsically what the other thinks and feels, music is just another language we use to communicate.”
Born in Ireland, they were raised in Bristol, consuming their parents’ rock’n’roll and soul/jazz collections and, as teenagers, the city’s drum & bass scene. But it was music of a heavier hue that truly united them. Colette cites Bad Brains, Fugazi, Yawning Man and Nico as key inspirations; Hannah leant more toward Deftones and Nine Inch Nails.
The crucial leap was Hannah writing the music to ‘Creeping’, which became the third single from their 2012 debut album 2:54. “Something just got triggered,” she recalls. “There was no forethought. It just felt really special, and pure.” Colette: “For us, music is sensory over logic, to be felt and experienced rather than rationalized.”
Their debut album was largely produced by Rob Ellis, mixed by the legendary Alan Moulder and released on Fiction. 2:54 was a fine first statement, and received widespread critical acclaim. NME branded it "One of the year's hottest debuts" with an 8/10 review.
After tours with bands that championed their music such as Warpaint, Wild Beasts and The xx, as well as numerous headline runs taking in slots at many of the best festivals around, following their fourth trip to the US, the band returned home to find the landscape had changed, “This album is about the terrain in which we found ourselves towards the end of 2012 and the journey we set out on in making our dream record.” Colette recalls. “We were forced to reappraise our situation and question everything, and it’s these questions that make up the beating heart of The Other I. Lyrically, the songs touch on a type of modern-day anxiety and the fundamental challenge of reconciling creativity with the reality of business.”
Colette explains, “All we want to do is make music and play our songs, like any band does. We believe in the transformative, transportive and healing power of music. Every step was necessary in the making of this record and led us to new ways of thinking. We found a new home with kindred spirits Bella Union; it is a great joy to be part of the family. The Other I is a testament of the love and fortitude of our band. It’s such a hopeful album for us.”
Written in Paris and in London, the album was recorded at Bella Union’s East London studio before the Thurlows and Alex Robins decamped to North London’s Fish Factory to complete it alongside co-producer and mixer James Rutledge, who's worked with the likes of Radiohead and Fever Ray. ‘In The Mirror’ and ‘Sleepwalker’ are cited as key entry points to the album’s core values, while lyrically ‘Orion’ sets the scene (“Oh, I saw America, I saw her wave”) for the album’s adventures. ‘Tender Shoots’ was taken from a short story Colette wrote “about a woman on the edge of a collapsing world.” While ‘The Monaco’ refers to a hotel in Salt Lake City where the band had their first day off in many months. Surrounded by mountains, “it was the most peaceful I’d been for ages, it was a real turning point.”
‘Raptor’ is the album’s brilliant finale, with its simmering intro, hypnotic flow, thrilling coda and rallying mantra: “Calling, I'm calling, I’m calling, I can hear it / You don't know us / One more turn and then I'll go / The end, the end, the end is close.”
“When Hannah first played me the music to ‘Raptor’, it had this cinematic quality that made me think of Blade Runner, it kept expanding and swelling,” says Colette. “It felt like the perfect way to end the album, and a good signal as to where we’re going next.”
“The Other I” tracklisting:
3. In The Mirror
4. No Better Prize
6. Tender Shoots
7. The Monaco
11. Glory Days