The Foreign Department, the second album by Astrel K, the solo project helmed by Stockholm-based British ex-pat, Rhys Edwards, is released today.

As a title, The Foreign Department offers an instructive guide for the listener, framing a life-in-transition/artist-in-exile document that maps two impromptu moves in twelve months for its songwriter: the first from London in pursuit of a relationship, the second between homes in Stockholm as that decade long relationship then suddenly dissolved. Indeed, diffusion, dissolution and reconstitution feel like appropriate touchstones for its recurring themes. Written amidst the flux of two states, at once isolated from home and then any established emotional anchor, the resulting eleven tracks came to represent a precognitive search for shifting identity and with it forming an unwittingly biographical record. It’s commendable and somewhat telling that during this shake up, Edwards somehow landed upon his most realised and original work.

For all its troubled origins, The Foreign Department is a remarkably warm sounding collection. Edwards’ lyrics are typically knotty and neurotic, dancing around the poetry of quarter-life anxiety, but the music itself is often joyous and even uplifting, the combination expressing that neat duality of melancholic euphoria. Edwards sings variously of crises, “torrid pieces of art”, of “houses on fire” and not “having the guts for it”, yet these troubling sentiments are framed by seemingly incongruous swelling strings, chirping horns or motorik percussion, creating that sense of pushing forward or floating above, of wrapping your troubles in dreams, a salve for the moments when you get a bit too much for yourself.

The Foreign Department is available digitally, on CD and in two different vinyl editions – a black vinyl pressing with a bonus two-song 7″ (edition of 250), and a standard black vinyl pressing.
To support the album, Astrel K will play a series of UK instores during week of release. Admission is free with purchase of the album from the corresponding shop. All four dates are listed below.

Buy/stream/download here.