Article Written By: Brandon Kurtz
Last October, alt-pop trio CIEL followed up their weightless, dreamy debut EP Movement and
subsequent run of singles with their new EP Not In The sun, Nor In The Dark. Formed from vocalist and
bassist Michelle Hindriks’ solo project, the Brighton, United Kingdom based group also features Jorge
Bela Jimenez on guitar and Tim Spencer on drums. Throughout their short discography, the trio has
drawn from genres such as post-punk, dream pop, and shoegaze to create their own take, combining
the genres that influenced them. Compared to 2020’s Movement, the band’s more recent output shows
their expanded, heavier sound and refined songwriting. Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark provides the
perfect entry point for first-time listeners and will leave their fans excited and wanting more.
The EP begins with two songs that showcase CIEL’s post-punk influences: “Back To The Feeling” and
“Fine Everything.” Released in the months leading up to Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark, both tracks
introduce the band's new direction. On the opening song, "Back To The Feeling,” Hindriks reminisces
about times where she lived in the moment and routinely stayed up all night, which she compares in the
song to floating through the sky. She does this on top of a thick bassline and tight drumming from
Spencer. One especially compelling moment comes in the instrumental section at the end, where layers
of synthesizers and distorted guitars take turns being the leading melody and providing noisy harmony.
The nostalgic tone of the song’s lyrics and its enthralling chorus make for an energetic song that sets the
tone for the rest of the fifteen-minute release.
The band carries this sonic energy into “Fine Everything,” which features a thumping post-punk beat in
the style of Closer-era Joy Division before moving into an upbeat, catchy chorus. The lyrics on this track
focus on the feelings that many young people experience when they are on their own for the first time;
the narrator likens it to being lost in the desert and denies that anything is wrong before shifting to the
bridge, where the narrator encourages listeners by saying “Deep down, Deep Down // follow your gut”
and “Listen sis, unleash your courage, your hopes // and bravely unravel your doubts to the core.”
While the first two songs feel like upbeat post-punk, CIEL effortlessly steps in an intriguing direction with
“Baby Don’t You Know,” a more traditional alternative pop song. This third and final single from 2022
included on this EP is quite possibly the strongest track the band has released. The lyrics of this one–
which are about feeling disconnected from people you care about– clash with an uplifting instrumental
that locks the band’s rhythm section with chugging power chords. Its chorus is by far the most
memorable from the group so far; I’ve noticed myself humming it throughout my daily routine. Hindriks’
haunting lyrics and laid-back instrumental performances from the rest of the band work in tandem to
create a satisfying pop song with force behind it.
Next, the group shifts down a gear with the cozy “Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark.” The title track,
which features electronic bass and drum sounds, feels like a small break from the higher paced first half
of the EP. The song seems to be about reliving a traumatic event, saying “My heart was aching // In the
dark, in the night // And I don't know if I could ever face it.” Though the lyrics are heavy, the song itself
sounds comforting. In the chorus, Hindriks repeats variations of phrases such as “Breathe again // Be
again” and “Never again, never again // in the sun // nor in the night” wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket
of chugging guitars.
The closing track, “Far Away,” is my personal favorite from the five that appear on the EP. In comparison
to other songs on this record, “Far Away” has the heaviest shoegaze vibe. It begins with choppy, fanning
chords that give way to a thick, rumbling bass and shrieking leads that accentuate the track’s simple
power chords. The best part of the song comes in its final two sections. First, the guitars from the chorus
ring out into beating tom drums and a deep, pulsating bass line. Then, Hindriks’ haunting voice is used
like an instrument to build up to one final explosion of sonic energy into listeners’ ears and end the EP
on a high note.
After spending over a month with Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark and diving into CIEL’s discography, I
am still as pleased with it as I was the day it popped into my Bandcamp suggestions. The group’s ability
to fuse musical styles together makes for an EP that has something to offer any fan of dream pop, post-
punk, shoegaze, or alternative pop. The band’s varied but closely related genre influences enable each
song to stand on its own, while maintaining a cohesive and well-paced sound as a collection.
Each song on Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark seems to have some sort of moment or experience at its
core, and I really enjoyed CIEL’s ability to bring the listener into that place in time in a way that feels
familiar. Clocking in at just over fifteen minutes, it is perfect to listen to throughout your everyday life or
whenever you feel the need for a quick escape. While I was not familiar with CIEL before the release of
Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark, I find myself coming back to this record repeatedly and looking forward
to hearing what the group does next.