The Clientele Shares Single, “Dying in May”

The Clientele — the cherished UK outfit composed of vocalist/lyricist/guitarist Alasdair MacLean, bassist James Hornsey, and drummer Mark Keen — presents “Dying in May,” the new single from their forthcoming album, I Am Not There Anymore (Merge Records), out July 28, 2023. On “Dying in May,” Keen’s live drums weave around programmed drum and bass samples, creating something polyrhythmic and avant-garde. Following the serene lead single “Blue Over Blue,” “Dying in May” elucidates the range of genres The Clientele explore on I Am Not There Anymore, a 19-track journey that extends from light bossa nova beats to the band’s classic chamber pop.
Of the track, MacLean says: “I think ‘Dying in May’ is the first Clientele song with no guitar. It also has no chords, as such — it’s a drone, with french horn, cello and Mellotron. So the rhythm does a lot of the work — the drums and percussion are in 9/8, but the singing and instruments are in 4/4, so as each bar goes past, there’s a slightly different rhythmic emphasis. This was a complete accident, but I loved it when I heard it — the patterns are a bit disorientating, but there’s a pulse that goes through it. I almost feel I could dance to this, but not quite. It’s based on an Arabic flamenco rhythm.
“The words are all fragmented too — simple images repeating, like someone in a high fever. I took some inspiration from cante jondo, Spanish flamenco — there tend to be two or three very focused, repetitive images in the words. There was no way in hell I could play guitar along with these rhythms, so I scored out a simple melody which would leave space for the drums, and be something the bass could latch on to. By the end, the words go over and over, like someone beside themselves with grief. Hence the title. It’s a harrowing subject, but I think it’s presented with love — the song hopefully opens it out and lets some air in. It feels like an exorcism for me.”