While the provenance of this intriguing debut may remain something of a mystery, ex-Metronomy member Gabriel Stebbing is likely to be the man behind Night Works. Already something of a sensation on the internet, I Tried So Hard will get a vinyl release on Record Store Day via Loose Lips Records. For an opening salvo, its as tantalizing as any of recent memory. The enigmatic collective produce ‘make-out music for the end of the world.’ Little wonder then that I Tried So Hard’s sultry, soulful chill-out groove becomes arctic. A wistful, smoky piano loop and stringent rhythmic pulse calls time on the good times and both get enveloped by an ominous, glacial synth wash. James Blunt stumbles off the set of Twin Peaks and into some modern update of an Edward Hopper mileu.; foggy swirls of dry ice overwhelm a late-night scene of neon lights and chrome. A spare lyric refrain only adds to the mood of nocturnal alienation.
The video’s single dolly shot closes in on a man frantically playing bongos in a hazy nightspot. Its the perfect visual evocation of the song, a slow-mo reveal of the cracks in lives led fast. But its really just a trailer for the extended version. A more fully-realized probing of the sadness that lurks underneath the shiniest of surfaces, top-drawer programming meets slick, session musician elan to exquisite effect (making sense of that Metronomy connection). Here the track opens out into a dub-like space as muso-worthy layers of instrumentation come to the fore with the elasticity of an old-school remix. The fretwork comes off like the distant sound of that end-of-the-party classic, Roxy Music’s Avalon. I Tried So Hard is a promising taster of things to come, an elegant clubland symphony of contrasting moods and textures. Sad songs say so much but songs that seem to say very little often cut even deeper.