The starting point for Zygmunt Day’s debut full-length record On Streets That Know was his decision to cover Ewan MacColl’s ‘Dirty Old Town’, and the album extrapolates from this the idea that behind a less than appealing exterior lies a place with strong emotional bonds.
By exploring the experience of East London in terms of work and struggle, Day paints a picture by recalling scenes that are mostly melancholic but shrouded in a subtle sense of fondness for the location that inspired these songs.
Two years in the making, this record was written by Day and arranged with his band Echo Pressure. Clocking in at just under an hour, the eclectic instrumentation of folk-tinged pop songs makes for an intriguing listen.
On track ‘Hailstones’, a bleak picture of life recalling “streets of metal, streets of rain” is juxtaposed with a lively sonic backdrop; the song starting with gently fingerpicked guitar before melding into a three-minute funky disco coda which declines into a dissonant swell of brass and woodwind.
Elsewhere, on opening track ‘Everyone I Know’, the harmonies feel at times baggy as Day recites the mantra “still they try, still they try” against indie-pop guitar stabs. Despite the largely consistent vocal delivery, there are times where cracks begin to appear.
Echo Pressure turn the tales recalled on their head. There is a great of sense of optimism conveyed by the arrangements, bouncy bass lines and innovative instrumentation – all of which prevent this record from becoming a one dimensional attack on modern life.
Together the ten-strong group – most of them multi-instrumentalists – make great use of a variety of different timbres that weave in and out of each track, reimagining Day’s grey picture of England in glorious technicolor.
The album’s spoken-word closing number recalls a tale that will resonate with many East London residents, with Day wishing he “had the tools to make it here”, as well as referencing scenes along the River Lea (“skeleton of the gasworks down by the canal”).
Rooted in folk, the poetic landscape of Day’s East London environment, told with the help of Echo Pressure, results in an engaging take on the romanticism of decay and struggle, and with a sonic texture that guides the interpretation of the songs throughout.