By Stevie Connor.
The Canada-born but UK-raised indie-folk artist Summit Of The Big Low (aka Toby Uffindell-Phillips) has released his second album today.
The self-titled record utilizes samples, atmospheric sound beds and field recordings, setting scenes within which Toby’s songs explore themes that trouble or fascinate him, especially given the parlous state of current world affairs. 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”), while first single ‘Dust’ offered a poignant reminder that “if the dust don’t settle we’re all going to breathe it” and its follow-up ‘Tearing Up The Darkness’ shone a light on isolation. 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.
The album cover depicts a Yin-Yang sign comprised of discarded cigarette butts. “My friend Lucy Pook did 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,” Toby explains. "From a distance, the artwork projects this beautiful ideological symbol of perfect harmony and balance, but up close you realize 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.”
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. As a solo artist, he has increasingly flexed his muscles in the studio, recording much of his 2022 debut 'Thin Air’ at home with assistance from past collaborators Bombay Monkey. Self-producing ‘Summit Of The Big Low’ and playing/programming all the instrumentation, it is a true solo record, 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) and the sampled words of wisdom from meditation teacher Burgs that bookend ‘Blizzard Child’.
"The world is in flux and old structures seem to be collapsing, while it is unclear what will take their place,” he muses. "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 record 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.”