“A lot of this new record was written in transit,” says Eoin French, the Irish artist better known as Talos. “Being away from the safety of my home and my studio allowed me to really take the shackles off and create in a different way. It was a terrifying feeling sometimes, but it was also really rewarding.”
While Talos will always be deeply connected to his native Ireland, his stunning sophomore album, ‘Far Out Dust,’ draws on a far wider perspective, melding tracks written and recorded in New York, Los Angeles, London, Dublin, Cork, and Reykjavik. The influence of the unknown runs deep here, invigorating French’s haunting blend of organic and electronic music with a gorgeous sense of discovery and wonder. But where Talos’ acclaimed debut, ‘Wild Alee,’ was a solitary affair about isolation and escape, ‘Far Out Dust’ finds French actually embarking on his long-imagined journeys, drawing strength and comfort from lived experience and deep human connection. The result is both his most ambitious songwriting and most sophisticated studio work, a collection that absolutely radiates creative confidence even as it wrestles with the pain of doubt and regret.
“I didn’t want this music to exist in the same place as the last album,” explains French. “We’d done that before, and I wanted to push things further this time. That meant learning to really trust myself as an artist in a whole new way.”
Part of that newfound confidence stemmed from the remarkable success of ‘Wild Alee,’ which was met with such a rapturous critical and commercial response that French was able to leave his second life as an architect and university lecturer behind and devote himself to touring and recording full time. Hailed by the Irish Times as “a spectacularly assured debut,” the album was met with raves on both sides of the pond upon its release in 2017, with The Independent calling it “stunning” and the New York Times’ T Magazine praising the songs’ “taut, chilling complexity.” The record garnered love from BBC Radio 1, racked up more than 25 million streams on Spotify, made the shortlist for the prestigious RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year, and earned Talos (which performs live as a six-piece) a sold-out release tour along with festival appearances everywhere from Electric Picnic to Airwaves.
As French spent more time on the road, his approach to the music began to evolve, and soon his meticulous architect’s eye for precision and symmetry gave way to a freer, more improvisational style, one deeply attuned to the moment.
“Our shows became really focused on the stories we were trying to tell,” says French. “When you’re performing that much, playing your parts comes really easily. What’s a lot more difficult is learning how to tell a different story with the music every night.”
When it was time to record ‘Far Out Dust,’ French carried that same improvisational spirit and devotion to storytelling into the studio with him, opening himself up in new ways as both a writer and performer. For the first time, he was able to lose himself entirely in the music without the distractions of a day job or a side-hustle, and he traveled the world to write and record with musicians and producers he felt could help the songs reach new heights.
“The only way to make this album was to open the doors up,” explains French. “I knew I wanted to bring in people who had very different expertise than I had, people who were better players and better producers who could really push me.”
While French and his longtime production partner Ross Dowling (James Vincent McMorrow, Bell X1) shouldered much of the instrumental load once again, they teamed up with a slew of collaborators this time around, working with producers like Doug Schadt (Maggie Rogers, Wet) and Valgeir Sigurðsson (Sigur Ros, Feist) in addition to recording with Son Lux drummer Ian Chang and handing over mixing duties to Damian Taylor (Bjork, Arcade Fire).
“This record was made super intensely,” says French. “We dove deep into every inch of the album and we were absolutely ruthless about cutting anything that wasn’t essential. Nothing made it onto the record unless it was 100% sure of itself.”
That artistic certainty is apparent from the first moments of album opener “Boy Was I Wrong,” a soaring epic that builds from a falsetto whisper to an oceanic roar of layered synthesizers and explosive drums. Throughout the album, French conjures up vivid, cinematic scenes, utilizing a broad dynamic range to oscillate between hushed introspection and explosive ecstasy, often within the same song. The steamy “2AM” captures the euphoric rush of a late-night physical connection, while the wistful “To Each His Own” laments the revelation of unkind intention, and “The Light Upon Us” juxtaposes the manic energy of madness and destruction with the eerily beautiful serenity that comes in its aftermath. Perhaps no track better captures the album’s complicated ambiguity than lead single “See Me,” an alluring earworm with a charming pop sheen that belies its ominous undercurrent.
“I drew a lot of lyrics for that song from the story of a serial killer named Ed Kemper,” explains French. “He did these horrific things, but it came out of this very universal desire to be seen. The irrepressible power of that kind of need fascinated me. We all want to be accepted, to feel loved, but if we never really see ourselves or understand our own goodness, we may never come close to letting anyone else actually see it.”
While much of the record is focused on such internal reckonings and interrogations of the self, it’s inevitable that the outside world would seep in more and more as French circled the globe with his music. “The Flood” recognizes that even our most sacred and intimate experiences are shared across humanity, and the waltzing “On and On” draws on the current political climate to decry our modern state of perpetual warfare. Rather than let hopelessness take hold, though, French ultimately insists on faith in his fellow man, on seeing the beauty and goodness in even the darkest of days. It’s a notion embodied by the hypnotic “Dawn, The Front,” a track built around the work of the late Irish composer Conor Walsh.
“Conor was an amazing piano player, and we’d spoken about doing something together for a while,” explains French. “After he passed away unexpectedly, I got in touch with his family about sampling his record because I think it’s one of the most beautiful modern piano pieces ever written. I wanted to honor him and share his work, so this song was very much a response to the art he was making. It’s the collaboration we never got to do.”
In that sense, ‘Far Out Dust’ isn’t just an album written in transit between places, it’s an album written in transit between states: between darkness and light, between desperation and devotion, between death and life.
“I think that’s the essence of ‘Far Out Dust,’” concludes French. “It’s the feeling of being cast out into this unknown and then coming back with all these fragments of something you can put back together. It’s the moment of transition when everything collapses into one.”For tour dates and more visit: www.thisistalos.com/