Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Verve - A Northern Soul

The second album by Wigan quartet 'The Verve' was clouded by negative reviews and severe media attacks of accused drug-use and violent natures within the recording studio. Both true to an extant, but the outcome wasn't a flop, it's The Verve's masterpiece and it deserves far more recognition than being 'that album before 'Urban Hymns'. Producer Owen Morris produced 'Definitely Maybe' by Oasis several months prior to 'A Northern Soul', but his alternative, britpop style of production carried on as The Verve looked to secure themselves with a wider audience. The Verve released the John Leckie, shoegaze filled 'A Storm In Heaven' in 1993 under the artist name 'Verve', before changing name to The Verve in late 1993. The history was set, the emotions were running wild and the four lads had the ability and backing to create a sterling album. And it was, but for some reason it's missed out among those 'classic' 'indie' albums of the 80's and 90's.

Some fans may have heard 'Gravity Grave' in live form, from the 1994 compilation album No Come Down. That track takes a thunderous bass riff and repeats it with many variations for over nine minutes with Peter Salisbury's enigmatic drumming and Nick McCabe's psychedelic guitar work. A Northern Soul carries on this psychedelia, but adds energy and power. 'A New Decade' has an epic guitar riff and a deep bass riff which destroys my speakers. Ashcroft sings with emotion and THATS what separates this album from Cast or any alternative rock band from the 90's. He sings with such passion and personal emotion, with his heartfelt lyrics at hand and wide vocal range ready to break windows.

Left sided bass, right sided percussion, 'This Is Music'. It opens with two lines of lyrical reality, "I stand accused just like you, for being born without a silver spoon." The guitar work blasts and the drumming caves in. The volume needs to be pointing right and you have to be able to hear Ashcroft's falsetto mid section before the revengeful closure of dissent noise and distorted melodies. The psychedelia is put on hold for the third track 'On Your Own'. it's romantic and it's sad. The acoustic guitar work is simple, and the majority of instrumentals here are simple, but the message is stark and uplifting. Ashcroft's vocal layers and falsetto close this track, making way for the melodic 'So It Goes'. This track is far more slower and darker, with hints of guitar chaos and drumming repetition, but the production stays Strong and the instrumental stands out as one of the more atmospheric on the album.

'A Northern Soul' rips through with it's loud guitar riff and electric bass. The drumming is spacious and allows room for pace. Ashcroft delivers one of the darkest, thought provoking personal vocals I've ever heard. He questions his own identity, his lifestyle and his ability to maintain a relationship. High pitched synthesizers and further guitar riffs power on as The Verve quickly become one of the loudest bands around. 'Brainstorm Interlude' screams out towards youth, as the drumming pounds with the foggy vocals. It's six minutes are pure hazy and funky, with delirious bass riffs and 60's-esque guitar solo's.

'Drive You Home' is incredibly relaxing. The dream pop guitar is eerie to the point of falling asleep at the wheel, pun not intended. The guitar work is beautiful and the beat, although pretty repetitive, has it's shining moments. 'History' has its place within 90's emotional alternative rock. with the William Blake lyrical opening surpassing the orchestral violin opening. The verse plays on as the bridge takes place with brilliant repercussive strings and emotional Ashcroft vocals. History is a desperate call of affection sung with the deepest emotions imaginable, it's a masterpiece.

The last few tracks are less energetic but far more melancholy. 'No Knock On My Door' has a brilliant guitar riff and an aged Ashcroft vocal which sounds very sparse. The darker 'Life's An Ocean' doesn't give me the same sophisticated vibe as some of the earlier tracks. It's part of that back album, lack of energy, lack of structure tracks that we see so often. 'Stormy Clouds' has more synthesizer work and darker vocals. The drumming is incredibly slow and feels too sporadic for this type of instrumental.

'(Reprise)' closes the album with a jam session. The guitar drones are thunderous and re-live those dark shoegaze days. Nick McCabe comes into his own with his truly magnificent guitar work. The session lasts for about six minutes before the lads compliment themselves. Albums are usually far from self appraisal, but A Northern Soul has that appraisal and appreciation by the band. In the years following, ever member has mentioned it as one of the decade defining albums, and the band at the top of their game. I think the demo sessions for this album show great raw and powerful material and I'm glad they managed to replicate the demos into something energetic with fantastic production. they have done themselves proud, regardless of critical reception. This is an outstanding piece of British alternative rock, far from the likes of Blur and Oasis.


The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

Vocals can bare many a differing of both opinion and importance between artists. Some consider them merely words as a conceptual accompaniment to the instrumental layers; others see them merely the crucial benefactor to an expression of emotion. And then there are those who see it as neither, and instead, strip all sounds of syllables, grammar and even sense, altogether. And if I find myself away from quoting the term Hopelandic, coined by a certain Icelandic band, then I'll most certainly be referring to the multitude of rock, roll, riffs and ridiculousness that is The Mars Volta. The creative nucleus of Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have - for one year short of a decade - blossomed from the rocky remnants of At The Drive-In into one of the 21st century's most challenging and testified rock acts ever to grace our ears. Noctourniquet, their sixth studio album and their first in 3 years, is the follow-up to the slightly underdeveloped Octahedron.

Thankfully, the album is anything but. 'I am a don't you step on me...' Cedric bursts out in a roar on opener 'The Whip Hand', a near-5-minute fuzz of thrusting guitar hooks and clumpered drumbeats, all lead along by Bixler-Zavala's riddling flutter of indecipherable jargon. Already we can experience the Volta's vocalist return to more somber and investigative territory in his lyrics, something which to me felt somewhat stripped on the group's previous outing. This is only intensified further by 'Aegis', Cedric first laying down the benchmark and then seemingly smashing it into a thousand pieces before a torrent of claims that he is 'not running away'. But this, of course, is fueled by Rodríguez-López's cleverly thought-out, cleverly-manic deliverance of stratospheric drops in guitar riffs and melodic chord changes.

But it's not all loud and heavy...and cryptic. 'Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound' demonstrates the duo's more somber approach to both lyrical deliverance and progression of sound. Omar's guitar playing here echoes with a somewhat magical fogginess across this darkening void, lead here by an almost mechanical marching of drums. 'The Malkin Jewel' in contrast is the bumbling swagger to Vessels' accomplishing draftiness. Cedric's waver between humble and jagged deliverance falls between the crashing and bopping of guitar and cymbal percussion.

Later tracks 'In Absentia' and 'Trinkets Pale of Moon' may falter - in a sort of sod's law de facto of track ordering more than anything - in comparison to the album's exceedingly strong opening half, the vocal work and often minimalist landscape leave for an interesting discovery into Cedric's vocal deliverance. The former works its bushy synthetic magic (and often, madness) across this with wavered results. Whereas the latter keeps the framework together with a melancholic organ work; synthesizer flickers reminiscent of something straight out of british braindance and a softly pluck of acoustics that give the track its haunting aroma throughout.

'Vedamalady' combines the two formulas of straight-out rock deliverance and billowing invigoration of sound, to immense effect. And it's only while we find ourselves floating amidst the rolling of drums and cornering guitar work working in unison to Bixler-Zavala's voice does the realization of this record kick in: this is a complete and utter realization of the absolute to the Volta's immensity in sound. Whether you listen for the guitar work, or you nod your head to the catchy beating of drums, or even sit there trying to decipher just what the vocalist is trying to actually convey, the truth is is that it simply does not matter in the long-run...or, so too, in the short-run. These are songs that feel far more perfected, far more than just improvised executions or mere rushed jots of song structure or lyrical deliverance.

And if there was ever a new aspect to be taken from this record and added to the band's delightful melting pot of short-term enjoyment and long-term return, it's the closer 'Zed And Two Naughts'. What starts off as a sizzling acidity of sequencers and vocals soon emancipates into something a lot more liberating and assertive. Even as the more rock-leniant sounds begin to take control, the worming of the track's electronic backbone keeps them from being diluted with deranged riffs.

True, synthetic sounds aren't something new or original the band - or any band for that matter - have decided to add to the ever-piling foray of composite sounds, but as is proven throughout this thirteen-track record, 'Noctourniquet' stands tall as a provence of impactive sound that both invigorates and provokes in as equal measure. Where previous albums such as De-Loused...heck, even Amputechture too, signaled the Volta's well-deserved credibility and importance as a band with big ideas and bigger executions, their sixth deliverance of these mindsets feel, as a result, more fulfilling than any that have come before it.


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Track Review: New Radicals - You Get What You Give

Most elitist music fans would see the name "New Radicals" and start sneering at once. But that's stupid: New Radicals are without a doubt one of the most underrated and unappreciated one-offs of the 90s.

New Radicals was really one man, Gregg Alexander who had previously released two short and unremarkable solo albums to little praise. New Radicals was as much about Gregg's irritation with the music industry as everything else he talks about in his lyrics. Disenchantment would have been a good name for his record, but Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, definitely does the track.

Alexander is definitely a huge cynic but if 'You Get What You Give' was an instrumental track you would never know it. It's beat and melody are so ridiculously upbeat and uplifting that you would never know its sardonic and downtrodden heart unless you really listened to the lyrics. They're all about feeling completely despondent and a bitter hatred of commercialism and Americana.

Within the lyrics of 'You Get What You Give', Alexander sings two very interesting lines of lyrics: "Health insurance rip off lying, FDA: big bankers buying, fake computer crashes dining, cloning while they're multiplying. Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson, You're all fakes run to your mansions, come around we'll kick your ass in." A verse of pretty serious topic followed by bunch of celebrity call-outs. Alexander predicted that nobody would notice his social pleas and focus on the pop culture ones. Unsurprisingly upon the singles release, it was only the pop-beef that made the news. If anyone wrote about Alexander's serious and cynical lyrics it was to label them as cliched and outdated.

The truth is, 'You Get What You Give' may not have the depth of a Dylan song or fury of a Rage Against the Machine anthem, but it's a wonderful pop song and if you haven't heard the other tracks on New Radicals album, you should check them out too.

Asobi Seksu - Hush

It's 2009 and this is Hush, the third album from dream pop outfit Asobi Seksu. Adored for their melodic hooks and eclectic influences. Hush is a somewhat dramatic turn for them, their earlier records being way more loud and experimental; Hush in comparison, is more pop-focused and twee in influence.

Asobi Seksu were formed in 2001 from the ashes of a band called Sportfuck. They released a self titled LP to somewhat indifference by the industry and followed it up with 2006's Citrus considered by many to be their magnum opus. A mastery of shoegaze. How could they top it? They wouldn't attempt it.

Instead, we get Hush a more concise and pop-sensible record with catchy tunes and less in terms of noise pop.

It begins with 'Layers' a jangly single with a simple hook the repeating lyric: "Under layers..." The key to Asobi Seksu's success is the gorgeous vocals of lead singer Yuki Chikudate whose unique Japanese style help cast Asobi Seksu in a light that no other group can really fall into.

The second track, 'Familiar Light' announces itself instantly as a drum-centered track with a heavy and catchy beat that carries itself really well.

'Sing Tomorrow's Praise' is kind of boring to me, it kind of takes the 'let's be pop-sensible' idea a bit far and kind of comes off as really snooze-inducing.

'Gliss' is the 4th track and another winner here. It reminds me a lot of the early Utada Hikaru tracks I loved a lot when I first found them. Very pretty and very plainly Japanese in style. There's something really unique about Asian pop music and that is evident with the clear fascination with it.

'Transparence' is the "hit single" of the album, and rightly so, it's really catchy and fun. This is the one you put on the love songs mixtape. Asobi Seksu's very own "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" if you get the meaning. A+ here.

'Risky and Pretty' is a short transitional piece that goes into In the Sky which is a beautiful art piece with a Dirty Projectors-esque beat that breaks into what is probably the best instrumental on the entire record.

'Meh No Mae' kicks off Side B with a clang and entirely Japanese lyrics that you can't understand, but somehow portray their message pretty well. The atmosphere this track creates is serious, but somehow manages to put quite a smile on your face.

'Glacially' is a captivating song with a really neat riff that definitely carries it through the weaker moments. This one reminds me a lot of some of the heavier Belle and Sebastian tracks. Definitely some Broken Social Scene in there too, a lot of those Arts&Crafts bands sound like this track. Probably my favorite track on the album.

Track 10, 'I Can't See', suffers from some of the same problems as 'Sing Tomorrow's Praise' and its inclusion is puzzling. It comes off as a bad rip-off track of Lush or Cocteau Twins, or some other dream pop band from a decade earlier. It is a rather embarrassing moment.

'Me and Mary' makes up for that. It was the first single released from the album and definitely sounds like the song that they spent the most time on. It comes off as precise but as if each note was very carefully placed. It sounds like the essence of the Citrus-era Asobi Seksu sound remains here but with the J-pop Hush sound intact. Most importantly: it's catchy and just fun to listen to.

We end Hush with 'Blind Little Rain'. It's hard to enjoy this song after 'Me and Mary' and the placement of the two tracks next to each other, was probably not a good one. 'Me and Mary' displays the group at their best, energetic and wild, but with the pop-sensibility of the record in mind. 'Blind Little Rain' is just kind of boring, and falls into the same pattern as some of the aforementioned "dull" tracks, too laconic and repetitive.

Overall Hush definitely does not top Citrus, but it's by no means a bad album and has enough bright moments to make it worth multiple listens.


Monday, 26 March 2012

MRD: Spring Break 2012

The UK's very own Statue of Liberty

Daily readers will notice the lack of reviews in the past few weeks. It's been 11 days since we last posted a review. We give you this stunning picture of Mary and Eddie in Leicester.. I mean New York City. Blog posts and YouTube videos will be up and running as soon as possible, with the weekly inclusion of Eddie's 'Music Review Database Top10 Tart Show'. The weekly broadcast to set the MRD audio recordings alive.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

Last year we got our first record of new material from Ryan Adams in nearly 3 years which, for some artists may not be that long of a gap but this is coming from the prolific singer/songwriter who once released 3 LPs in the same year. And two of them were really good too.

Adams was exhausted after his band the Cardinals broke up and he reported a worsening with his Ménière's Disease, a disorder in the inner ear that causes an extreme sensation of vertigo. Though it was not an entirely negative hiatus, he did marry his long time squeeze; actress Mandy Moore and wrote two books of poetry. During his absence Capitol also issued a collection of unreleased recordings III/IV and he self-released a heavy metal album under the pseudonym Orion.

Ryan Adams started out his career as the lead singer of popular 90s country band Whiskeytown and after its disbandment recorded several fantastic solo albums followed by some not-so-fantastic ones. After this damp period, Adams regrouped with his new band; the Cardinals. They released the three aforementioned records in 2005 and were met with great acclaim, going on to record my personal favorite Ryan Adams’ record Easy Tiger in 2007. They would release one more album and then break up.

So now Ryan Adams returns solo once again and recording a record that appears as striking as his early works, but with the maturity of nearly two decades of experience.

This is abundantly clear in the opening track of the record ‘Dirty Rain’, a song echoing of his earliest songs. I hear a lot of ‘Rescue Blues’ and ‘Damn Sam’ in this. Early CSN&Y influence here obviously and with a tone of something that was definitely lacking from Cardinology, his last album prior to this.

The second track, also the title track, ‘Ashes & Fire’ made me really happy the first time I heard it, cause it was the first time in a while that Adams sang with his earlier country croon. And what works best about this track is the combination of maintaining his earlier sound but with the lyricism he’s developed in the more recent years. “Her eyes were indigo, and the cats were all calico and the sailboats they all sailed by, and a river she cried.” Some of his best lyrics, without question, I always think of the way Robert Hunter phrased things on the Dead album American Beauty when I listen to Ryan Adams’ records.

‘Come Home’’ is a bit of a snoozer, a simplistic love tune, featuring bland backup vocals by Norah Jones and Mandy Moore. It’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t expect from a veteran like Adams.

One of Ryan Adams’ most ambitious albums, was actually never released in whole, but split up in two EPs known as Love is Hell and Love is Hell Pt. 2. These albums had rock tracks, but their finest moments were in their quiet acoustic songs which were among the best Adams has ever released. ‘Rocks’ is reflective of those tracks. It almost reminds me of White Album-era Beatles for some reason. Listen to the track and you’ll probably catch the reference I am making with that. Cool.

‘Do I Wait’ is a sad song, but I like it a lot regardless. I think fans of the earlier Ryan Adams song will be annoyed by songs like this one, and the one that follows it, the Britpop glazed ‘Chains of Love’, these songs really are more like his newer material, but as a fan of him I really eat these tracks up. I acknowledge though, that they do lack the genius of the early tracks on this album, and indeed his early discography.

‘Invisible Riverside’ is probably the best track on the album. It’s laced with a catchy electronic undertone that really sucks you in while Adams distracts you with his sweet lyrics and guitar. It reminds me a lot of the stuff Wilco is putting out lately, which is definitely the niche I think Ryan Adams is going for, so this is a good sign that I’m picking up on it.

When the album first came out last year, I had said that ‘Save Me’ was my favorite track from the record… In retrospect, I definitely do not stand by it. It’s one of his more generic tracks, really similar to half of the shit on 29.

Adversely, ‘Kindness’ is among the best of the album’s offerings, it is the most tender and personal song on the album. Though Adams stated that he didn’t really infer to his developing illness on this record, this song definitely brings the subject up a little bit, alongside his marriage with Moore…These personal touches definitely help to curve the song in its beauty. Also the Hammond organ playing, really only evident near the end of the track is so fucking reminiscent of my favorite Hammond organ playing from the 60s and I LOVE that he put in there.

‘Lucky Now’ is the radio-friendly single of the album and I actually am not that crazy about it. It’s just kind of bland and sounds like every other alternative-country single in the last decade. Maybe it’s not horrible, but just the fact that it’s coming from Ryan Adams, I expect more.

The final track on the album is ‘I Love You, But I Don’t Know What To Say’ which is not as self-explanatory as the title might lead you to believe. It’s a sweet little love song obviously pegged for his squeeze Mandy Moore and while not overly interesting; it’s a nice ending to what is definitely a decent come-back record.

Ashes & Fire was unjustifiably criticized by a press that has always had a harsh and misunderstood relationship with Ryan Adams for no seemingly explainable reason. It’s not his best, but it’s definitely good and it is good to see him back in the saddle making music for his fans. The phoenix metaphor of the album might be a bit much, but the outline is definitely solid.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Neutral Milk Hotel - On Avery Island

This month marks the 16th anniversary of Neutral Milk Hotel's debut album On Avery Island. Dwarfed by it's big brother In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, On Avery Island fights to be heard. Opinions differ but the general consensus of On Avery Island is relatively positive. Those of us that talk about this album will mention it's lo-fi aspects and 'full' instrumentation sound which ITAOTS lacks gleefully. Filled with feedback and poetic lyrics, On Avery Island was Jeff Mangum + instrumentalist and producer, Robert Schneider's output under the moniker Neutral Milk Hotel. On release, Mangum recruited his trio to form the bulk of the band. 

We begin with 'Song Against Sex'. The fuzzy production may hurt your ears, and it may put you off On Avery Island all together, but the track is phenomenally good. The lyrics flow perfectly and Mangum's textured vocals sit nicely above the rapid instrumentation. The experimental drumming works with the powerful bass and everything mixes and matches as intended. The horn section is dreamy and is among the great surprises Neutral Milk Hotel reveal as the album unfolds. The focus is on psych-folk and low fidelity. 'You've Passed' begins with the deafening percussion which holds it's place throughout the track. It's almost unheard as the distortion slams through the speakers with Mangum's high pitched vocals and typical aesthetic song structure. 

The audience will hear interesting melodies and advanced indie pop instrumentation, love it or hate it, this album is unique. 'Someone Is Waiting' doesn't stretch rocks boundaries and it doesn't have the softest edges, but it's made for power and energy. It's beautiful melody splits the agonizing original distorted ending from lyrical bliss. Mangum sings, "And I love you and I want to shoot all the super heroes from your skies. Watch them bleeding, from your ceiling, as their empty anger falls out from their eyes. All alone." Enter the soft and melodic acoustic track, 'A Baby For Pree'. It's less than 90 seconds long and has four basic chords, but the imagery and structure separates itself from anything imaginable. Typical Jeff Mangum madness, or genius.

Bludgeoned drumming and a guitar drone make the backbone of 'Marching Theme'. White Light/White Heat era Velvet Underground can be a comparison with the simplistic drumming, obscure synthesizer drone and the heavy distortion, especially the part that plays out the track. 'Where You'll Find Me Now' is reminiscent of childhood. It has sweet lyrics like, "your teeth believe that teeth are for tearing, tear into me," and a melody many people will know as the 'Ice Cream Van Music'. It also has the same melody as A Baby For Pree. Yet another instrumental sees 'Avery Island/April 1st' showcase simplicity and 'indie' as fuck horns mixed with electric piano. 

'Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone' has lovely fuzz. it's just a little gimmicky and the production is pretty poor here. It's one of the major criticisms for On Avery Island, and I must mention how lo-fi it does sound, even if that's not what you want to heat. Mangum delivers a strong vocal and only increases his reputation through the vocal drones leading into words. He lifts the horns from the previous track and tightens the tempo to create something meaningful and experimental. 'Three Peaches' is like a Daniel Johnston track. The imagery is supreme and the weird instrumentation adds to the surreal vibe. This is one of the few times you'll hear multi-layered Jeff Mangum vocal effects like this.

'Naomi' has everything, the three basic acoustic guitar chords with sufficient distortion, vocal layers and melody. The kick is mesmerising and the following three minutes pave the way for ITAOTS's glories. Naomi just standout, it's the instrumental and uplifting guitar work. The track pours into 'April 8th', which lacks in creativity and originality, as does the closer 'Pree-Sisters Swallowing a Donkey's Eye'. This track is magnificent in it's own way. it opens with the regurgitated instrumental drone and drumming soundscapes. People criticise this track for it's length, beyond 13 minutes. I hear the repetition and melodic sounds n the left speaker. The track becomes otherworldly with reverberated drones and heavy bass.

The album closes with four minutes of grotesque noise. It's unique and it's the work of Jeff Mangum, but it's not a classic. Like I mentioned before, On Avery Island is dwarfed by In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, and for good reason, but does make On Avery Island bad? No, it's the opposite. The lack of listeners only increases On Avery Island's notoriety as an 'indie' album that was the appetiser for ITAOTS. Fuzz, spectacular lyrics and uncharacteristic structure make up On Avery Island, it's far more experimental than ITAOTS and Neutral Milk Hotel set their foundations with this album. 


Pop Corner: One Direction - Up All Night

I can find a Mediafire link for Damo Suzuki bootlegs, 12 Rods debut album and The Fall Peel sessions, but I can't find a link for One Direction? What's up with that?!?! How can this monumental group (not band, group) not have their album uploaded to the Internet. It's baffling me to a point of insanity. Have we moved on from the XFactor age? No. Does success equal greatness and critical acclaim? No. Are One Direction a 'boyband'? No. Can Eddie be open minded just this one time? No. XFactor destroys creativity and takes everything credible artists work for, injecting money to create fake, dull and predictable music.. Which in turn, is successful.

One Direction is a product of Simon Cowell's Syco label. I could end the review here, but I won't. We have five 17 - 20 year olds singing songs of love and... Actually, just love. Pop music has sentimental value and I can't complain and physically act upon what's played on the radio, but I can explain why I don't like this. The opening track 'What Makes You Beautiful' has been written by five individuals with no relation to One Direction. I don't think the general population know One Direction didn't write this song or any song on this album, and that's the deal breaker. How can a song about love which needs passion and energy be sang by a group of lads who have no passion or energy other than 'getting famous'. This eats away at me because gorgeous love songs written by Chan Marshall and Nick Drake are hidden away in record stores, when One Direction turn up to the studio (in Sweden) and sing monotonously about 'insecure girls'.

The track does have a catchy little guitar riff, however it's been used before and has a predictable structure. Theres not a lot of difference between One Direction and JLS. 'Gotta Be You' is respectful to the industry. Instead of the childish instrumentation and average IQ of 60 target audience, this track has strings and a raised chorus that appeals to a mature audience. It still lacks passion and I'm not convinced on the production, but the 'catchy' chorus distances itself from other top40 tracks. 'One Thing' brings the lads back down to Earth. The song structure and chorus, which I'm now calling 'The Katy Perry Effect', just pounds on in blandness. The lyrics are incredibly predictable but I can see how it appeals to the teenage population.

The singles are now over. Never has the term 'album filler' been more applicable to an album other than this. 'More Than This' is overproduced, the bass sounds way to heavy in comparison to the weak vocals. The computerized strings are aged and the track doesn't appeal to me at all, there's not one thing I can compliment. Same goes for the title track 'Up All Night'. It has references to Katy Perry being on the radio, which in itself doesn't surprise me. The raising synthesizer works but the chorus is expected and happens with similarities to every chorus in modern pop music. 'I Wish' is exactly the same. It has the same beat but in a slower tempo. We hear some clear electric guitar work, but its subdued by the electronic drum beat.

'Tell Me A Lie' has the same guitar opening which has been effected to sound like a synthesizer. The beat hits like a damp towel. Predictability is something I despise and when beats sound exactly the same, I can't appreciate it's artistic value. 'Taken' has the chord progression used in almost every track so far. raw drumming is featured but is obscured by the vocal harmonies and bass. You may question why I'm not focusing on the vocals. It's because pop vocals sound exactly the same and I can't spend time listening to the same thing over and over again. You wouldn't watch an episode of The Simpson's on repeat would you?

'I Want' to stop listing to this album... But I must continue, the MRD readers must know what I think about One Direction. I want has vocal repetition and I can imagine it being released as a single a little closer to summer. The vocals are much better here than anywhere else on the album. They fit with the structure and don't follow a basic pattern. The electric guitar solo surprised me but it's pretty standard and unoriginal to say the least. 'Everything About You', 'Same Mistakes', 'Save You Tonight' and 'Stole My Heart' end the album. Let's start with Stole My Heart. Taio Cruz - Dynamite. Everything About You has a 'Vengaboys' vibe but the vocals enter and I cringe. Same Mistakes could be passed off as a Take That single, that isn't a compliment by the way. I can't stand 'ballads' sung by kids that didn't write the 'ballad'. Save You Tonight has 80's esque synths and the bass is lovely, but the beat is again repetitive and used in every single track.

How does this differ from JLS or Take That or Taio Cruz? It doesn't. It's not original and it's certainly not unique. It may be number one in several countries, it may have a BRIT award, but does it have critical approval, proper critical approval? No, because it can't and it doesn't deserve critical attention. Verse/chorus/verse structures are common and they make singles, but they don't have to be cringe worthy and pretentious. This is a pop album with three to four radio singles and nine terrible tracks of lyrical nonsense. 

'The Boy Bands Have Won, and All the Copyists and the Tribute Bands and the TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture to Be Shaped by Mimicry, Whether from Lack of Ideas or From Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try to Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother's Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don't Just Regurgitate Creative History, or Hold Art and Music and Literature as Fixed, Untouchable and Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try to 'Guard' Any Particular Form of Music Are, Like the Copyists and Manufactured Bands, Doing It the Worst Disservice, Because the Only Thing That You Can Do to Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It's Over, Then It's Done, and the Boy Bands Have Won'. ~Chumbawamba


Slowdive - Pygmalion

Slowdive's third and final LP, Pygmalion, is a difficult one to classify. While many critics feel it's a step back from their titanic LP Souvlaki, fans of the record feel it is the pinnacle of their career; the natural progression of a fledgling band maturing gracefully from the sometimes-whimsical, sometimes-sappy dream pop of 1991s Just for a Day, to the genre-defining Souvlaki, and arriving at a sound that is uniquely their own. At the time of its release, the vast majority of Slowdive fans waiting to hear Souvlaki Part Two regarded the release of Pygmalion as the former, which ultimately reflected in the album's sales. Within a week of Pygmalion's release, the band was dropped from Creation Records, ultimately resulting in the group disbanding. 

Founders Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell were in a relationship throughout their musical career, and the rumoured tension that arose between them after the release of Souvlaki is quite evident in the themes present in Pygmalion. Souvlaki can be seen as a celebration of sorts with tunes that (ironically) gaze skyward like "Souvlaki Space Station" and "When the Sun Hits" and is a landscape achievement of the 'scene that celebrates itself'. Pygmalion, in contrast, is significantly more introspective, standing as a drug-induced haze of depression and self-loathing. It is a taxing listen, but one that was ultimately necessary for them, as one can't help but become entranced by the catharsis Halstead and Goswell are shamelessly portraying.

Opening with the staggering (given the brevity of their previous work) 10-minute long "Rutti" Slowdive effectively sets the mood of the album while serving as one of the jaw-dropping highlights. Sparse, ethereal, yet marvellously engaging, "Rutti" defines the minimalist approach that is so masterfully explored on Pygmalion. "Rutti" serves as a perfect contrast to the band's earlier material; while Just for a Day and Souvlaki relied heavily on space-filling barrages of feedback and reverb, Pygmalion takes quite the opposite approach, utilising space and silence to great effect. It is the kind of track that immerses the listener, hypnotic in its gentle chords that rely heavily on reverb. At what can be loosely defined as the "chorus" of the track, simple descending arpeggios syncopate with the guitar lines to create a dizzying effect. The lyrics are indecipherable, but that is largely the point. The strength of "Rutti" and of Pygmalion as a whole, is the concept of the voice as an instrument, merely a component of a larger scheme, that can often invoke more emotion than a well-written lyric.

Following the bleak introduction of "Rutti"comes the gorgeous '"Crazy for You", recalling Slowdive's earlier collaborations with Brian Eno from Souvlaki's "Sing". The structure of this song is relatively simple, relying mainly on a forlorn loop of Halstead singing "Crazy for love." I absolutely love the ambiguity between the title and the lyric; to me, it further reinforces the album's hazy, drugged-out themes of heartbreak. I feel like Halstead is unsure if he's crazy for his love, or just for the idea of love, and it's something that definitely hits home for me. Much of Pygmalion utilises these simple lyrical snippets, never having to rely on verbose expressions to portray a thought or idea. "Miranda" reminds me of Goswell's take on the same idea, and showcases the raw emotion her voice exudes. I do think this track could benefit from a bit more fleshing out (something they have done exceptionally well, see "Miranda" from their Pygmalion Demos), but it does not take away from the album's strength.

"Trellisaze" rounds off side one of Pygmalion on what could be considered a weak note, with a sample reminiscent of a water drop falling in a bucket repeating for the entirety of its six and a half minutes. Cymbals creep up and fade out slowly, becoming slightly out of time in the process. It takes a few listens to really sink in (or, perhaps more accurately, to be able to listen through while resisting the desire to skip to the next track), but ends up being quite rewarding. I personally love this track, as I feel it represents the lowest point of Halstead's emotional state, an almost paranoid psychotic sink into depression.

Side two opens with the incredibly beautiful instrumental interlude "Cello", which segues perfectly into the album's centrepiece "J's Heaven". At just shy of seven minutes, "J's Heaven" represents everything that makes Pygmalion so incredible. Roaring waves of guitar reverb cascade over Goswell and Halstead's poignant observation, "Isn't life small?" A simple underlying guitar melody keeps the track grounded when it feels like everything could crumble apart. At times it is difficult to tell if Goswell or Halstead are singing, as their vocals swirl into one another and fade out sublimely. The instrumentation is flawlessly done, never overbearing, yet always captivating - a stunning masterpiece.

Perhaps my only qualm with Pygmalion is the inclusion of track seven, "Visions of La". At 1:48 long, it feels like a snippet of an idea that was not fully developed. Nothing about it strikes me, though it does serve as an effective barrier between the overwhelming beauty of "J's Heaven" and the following track, "Blue Skied an' Clear", easily one of the band's greatest songs they have ever produced. Given the depressing scope of the album up to this point, "Blue Skied an' Clear" serves as a shining glimmer of optimism. Beginning with a guitar line that is reminiscent of their later work in Mojave 3, this song erupts into an absolutely gorgeous chorus that would be right at home on Souvlaki. To me, this track represents a second chance, or perhaps a reflection upon the remnants of a relationship that was once great. "You say love, and it sounds so good / You say love, and it sounds so sweet," Halstead sings, resulting in an achingly beautiful yet simple sentiment. 

Slowdive has always been able to write a powerful closing track for their albums, and Pygmalion closer "All of Us" is no exception. Bringing us back to a melancholy mood after the gorgeous beauty of "Blue Skied an' Clear", "All of Us" is relatively straight-forward and one of the less effect-laden tracks on the album. To me, this track acts as they come down from the drug-induced state the listener has listened through. A bitter taste of reality, "All of Us" shows Halstead coming to the realisation that relationships (and their conclusions) are the result of our choices. "This whole life / is all of us,” he sings, "This whole dream / is all of me." It is a sobering statement, and a heart-wrenching way to end the album.

Part of me can't help but be disappointed that Pygmalion's release marked the end of Slowdive, but at the same time it seems completely natural. Though this album marks, in my  opinion, the creative pinnacle of Halstead and Goswell (their significantly less interesting follow-up project Mojave 3 and their underwhelming solo material lends evidence to this,) I am glad that Slowdive were able to create a masterpiece and end it at that. Their creative legacy still lives on, with many newer bands in the "nu-gaze" revival of late citing them among their greatest influences. Most importantly though, Pygmalion showcases an amazing band creating an album more out of the necessity of art and expression than pleasing their fans, ultimately resulting in an absolute classic of the 90s.
~Steven Avery


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Social Ignition - The Social Igniton

The Social Ignition are a nine piece ska/reggae outfit from Hinckley, Leicestershire. They have a heavy funk influence and focus on 'ska-punk' as a fixed genre. This isn't an album, it's more of a pre-release/demo/handout. I have my signed copy and keep it in my car, for when Neutral Milk Hotel and Radiohead take a well deserved break from the player. 2-Tone ska is located several miles down the road in nearby Coventry. Grebo is located several miles in the opposite direction, Leicester. If you're not familiar with the Leicester 'grebo' bands, I suggest surfing the Internet, you might find something worthwhile. Check out Gaye Bikers On Acid and tell me I'm wrong. 

I've seen this band about nine times in the past year, I'm not exaggerating. Their music can get a little repetitive, but it's quite quirky and blends genres well. So we have nine tracks here, one of which is hidden at the end. 'Last Laugh' has a splendid horn section and flowing bass which just takes the track forward. The drumming is compact and has been recorded well. It's sounds flat, but does have brilliant breaks and cymbal sounds. The horns are a real standout, which is a common occurrence for The Social Ignition both in the studio and live. 'Game We Play' has a similar bass riff and the reverberated guitar enters with the obligatory 'chuka-chuka'. The chorus is lovely and the final few minutes are bright, showcasing a different time signature and improved horns. 

'Can't Catch Us' has a great melody, but passes before it begins. 'Milkshake' is the computerized reggae track with straight forward guitar and bass. 'Keep On It' has a beautiful horn section and the song structure is spectacular. One of the few things I can pick at and moan about is the song introductions. They all start in the same fashion, with the rising bass and slight horn intro. I'm not a fan because it lacks variety and musicianship in my opinion. 

The last few tracks are definitely the most melodic and pleasing. 'Situations' is what I expect, lovely bass and has a brilliant stricture. 'Bulltets' is a crowd pleaser and has the same musical aspects as every other track, apart from the rhythm guitar which stands out. Sections seem lost and vague, but the lyrics standout. The final track is the most melancholy and ear catching track on the album. The opening buildup is welcomed and the descending musical section of the horns and fast paced guitar work (and Harmonica) set the track alight. The vocal echoes and atmospheric support vocals standout. it's a fun and energetic track and fades nicely for the hidden track which is another fun filled number with plenty of drunken references and melodic vocals.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Silent Festival: ATP Jeff Mangum

Take a look at that line-up and you will notice some of music's biggest alternative artists. We have 90s indie giants and 80s post punk stars performing on the same stage - modern composers and eclectic artists from all fields of music ranging from (Beefhearts’) The Magic Band to the sweet folk music of Joanna Newsom. Just looking at the line-up makes me want to go, no matter what, it can't be missed. It's not always that simple when the festival is located in Somerset. Yes, Minehead's very own Butlins, which has been the location for music’s biggest alternative names over the years; you wouldn't have thought it. All year round it's a tacky town for sunbathers craving for fake beaches and overpriced cider, but during ATP, It's surreal. 

This was a three day festival with a capacity of 5,500. I understand the differences between ATP: Jeff Mangum and say... Glastonbury. These huge festivals have commercial artists leading the bill, with the eclectic supply of P4K gravy train artists playing on smaller stages. ATP is quite simply an intimate festival for the serious music listener. Not many people could recognise this line-up, it may seem silly to me and you, but how many people do you know listen to The Apples In Stereo or Half Japanese... The Raincoats, Scratch Acid, The Music Tapes, or Jeff Mangum???

So I'm frustrated from the lack of coverage. The festival has now passed and people have returned to their everyday lives, spreading the good word to anybody they see fit. The coverage has been non-existent. I managed to find one review (Which didn't even mention Jeff Mangum.) Stereogum posted a story this morning which read; "Over the weekend, the Jeff Mangum-curated ATP festival went down in Butlins, Minehead, UK, and as a result there’s some footage out there from the likes of Joanna Newsom, Low, and the Fall. We’ll update as necessary". 'as necessary'... AS NECESSARY!!

I'm annoyed that none of the big players have sent reporters or cameras to this festival. Pitchfork especially should be covering this. At least write a story, Jeff Mangum is here for god’s sake. It's not every day you can see Low, Joanna Newsom, and Boredoms on the same night. Then sleep and see Scratch Acid, The Magnetic Fields, and Jeff Mangum the next day. I was expecting an array of reviews, but instead I had to read the four comments on the festival page. Music journalists, where are you... Shocking. 
~Eddie Gibson

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Morning Parade - Morning Parade

s it safe to say that we can add Alternative to the ever-growing, ever-degrading list of genre tags that, in today's World, feel more like a hinderance than assistance? We have IDM, RnB, Post-Rock. Though most of them are respectable in their naturism (most of them), the over-usage of these titles and sub-titles in the vast multi-axis of music, can be, at the very least, an eye-roller. And here we have the tag of 'Alternative', vis-a-vis rock which isn't rock; artists that sound like band x but actually sound more like act y. But just what is it an alternative to? Well, Morning Parade, a five-piece from Essex may have the answer we've all been looking for (because, of course, we all know the true sound of 'Alternative' is one of the greatest mysteries of the musical World) with their self-titled debut release.

'Blue Winter' kicks off proceedings as you would expect from any 21st-century british act; swooning their guitars left and right behind a tussle of drumbeats and crashes of cymbals. There's more out-stretchedness here in comparison to your regular opener which may still feel half-asleep and struggling to kick off, but Morning Parade here sound as fresh and awake as their later tracks. Follower 'Headlights' continues vocalist Steve Sparrow's auspiciously bare-boned lyrics: 'Cause like a rabbit in your headlights/I am the beckon to your call,' Sparrow sings, 'And like the early morning headlines, I am all too predictable' It may stand a few struts lower than Interpol's or Franz Ferdinand's more catchier, wittier deliverance but there is still content in the music. It keeps the overall track away from simply boring us with the same-old 'I'm this, you're that' metaphoric lyricism.

'Running Down The Aisle' is the first slower-paced drawn-back track on the album - this formulae of past albums becoming almost a staple in past years. But here, Sparrow's vocals feel more believable and genuine to the mood - the drop of piano keys accompanied soon after by a well-placed drumbeat. There was initially a sudden vibe of later UNKLE albums when I first heard this and that's nothing majorly bad. It's a comforting listen, and doesn't ask too much from the listener. The drums continue to rustle frantically on 'Us & Ourselves' which shows nods and appreciation to said past acts - broadening guitar riffs likely that of Editors' efforts, elevating the interludes between vocals. They come in equal measures, but don't attempt to drown the sound with its silk-thin textures - the vocals here remain in focus, in touch, with the timing and the intensity of the track.

Yes, the vocals continue to command the stage these compositions lay presented across. Maybe it's this reason that Sparrow feels it's unnecessary to try out new methods or means to expand and triangulate his lyrics across in tone. The instrumentation continues to pool us across waves of distorted strings and collisions of percussion, but beyond that, the lyrics can only reach out so much from this supposed limitation. But 'Half Litre Bottles' shows a more delicate presenting of the band's guitar work, strums echoing confidently to a tone of voice not entirely heart-wrenching, but certainly far from monotonous or empty. 'Monday Morning's more synthetic spine of beats, that follows afterwards, works remarkably well given the wide-open string arrangements and guitar work peaks out during the highest points of the verse-chorus structure. High points here, aren't exactly explosive or guns-blazing as you'd expect from alternate rock progression and its apparent limitation of expression brings about a kindling of humanism about it. And that's what Morning Parade do so well on this album.

True, there is a partially-adventurous, partially-expected unleashing of uninterrupted chord-changes and slams of drums occurring more than just a handful of times. But where they lack in, what some may call, character. But even if the lyrics and sound fall a hairline short of melting into one another, their intimate and bold ventures do give us some intriguing mixes of voice and instruments. Closer 'Born Alone' could be considered the highest achiever of these fields. Almost six-minute in lengths, on the outside it certainly doesn't give the impression of being your typical three-verse rocker of the early 'noughties'. Why should it? Even if the song relies on the deliverance of the chorus parts, it's this deliverance that comes across really well - Sparrow's voice both pleasantly delicate yet maddeningly vulnerable in equal measure. Together, with the clash of guitars and drums, it only strengthens the singer's almost-pleading portrayal of this state of mind and state of being.

State of mind when it comes to these four-piece/five-piece rock acts may in most cases be limited to the detailing context of missing, or longing for someone, rather than something. But away from this semi-romantic connotation, the state of being shows no sign of slowing down. It's quite remarkable that even if we limit ourselves to these four-chord, four-string, four-four signatures, if you have the right voice and the right purpose for expressing your words, the most simplest structure can bring about the most wrenchingly-felt results for its listener. And Morning Parade, on their debut (let's not forget) have proved they have the longevity, alongside the technique, to deliver this. And if they build upon their lyrical themes, who knows what we'll be feeling, as well as hearing


Saturday, 10 March 2012

Smog - The Doctor Came at Dawn

A singer-songwriter from Maryland, twenty-nine year old Bill Callahan, under the pseudonym 'Smog' records his fifth album, The Doctor Came at Dawn. It is a beautiful record, to be admired for its gloomy, laconic sound and heartfelt lyrics.

As of 2012, Callahan has released eleven full length albums under his Smog moniker, alongside three under his actual name. Generally his music is very similar; quiet and sad...Very dark lyrically with depressing instrumentation generally organs, cello and acoustic guitar. Callahan’s deep voice also has a very forlorn atmospheric tone to it. Occasionally he will venture into more light hearted writing, but the majority of his music, and his earlier albums are almost entirely somber.

The Doctor Came at Dawn was released in September and is just under forty minutes in length, consisting of ten songs. Bill Callahan records all the instrumentation himself, with the exception of guest vocals from former-girlfriend Cynthia Dall on the third track. The only other contribution on the record comes from another Drag City veteran; Jim O’Rourke. This is his second time working with Callahan as he played cello on Callahan’s last record Wild Love. O’Rourke engineered 'Doctor Came at Dawn' and his input is noteworthy.

We began 'Doctor with You Moved In', which in turns, tells the beginning of the end of a relationship: taking things to the next level with ones significant other and watching it all fall completely apart. The seriousness of the album is evident in the first words. Callahan sings: “You moved in to my hotel. You could have done better, but oh well.” Anyone who has experienced that kind of bitter resentment will be relating to this record in the first two minutes of it. The song, while dark and bitter has a certain pop sensibility about it that keeps it on track and in tune, so to speak.

'Somewhere in the Night' is track two and starts with a faster tempo than the former track, and cleverly escalates than slows to a stop near the end like a Meatloaf track. I feel like this is more of a stereotypical Smog track than You Moved In is. Lyrics about licking spoons and searching for answers through b-sides, it’s the kind of lyricism that Callahan is known for.

The third track, 'Lize' is probably the 'stand out single' of the album. It’s centered around a catchy-as-fuck hook that pretty much guarantees its success, in that you will be singing it even hours after listening to this record. “They don’t make lies”, Callahan moans with his ex-girlfriend, “Like they used to”.

'Spread Your Bloody Wings' is a more difficult song to interpret. Wherein the first three tracks on Doctor are all very openly bitter, 'Spread Your Bloody Wings' is more rueful and I guess would represent a stage of regret in your cliche “seven stages of loss” album. It feels kind of out of place to me, between the melodic Lize and the misty instrumental that follows.

That instrumental, is 'Carmelite Light' which is a misty dream-like track that lasts a brief moment, not really long enough to like or dislike it.

The song I am most torn on is the last one on Side-A of the record, 'Everything You Touch' Becomes a Crutch which is the fastest song on the album. “I beat myself to sleep,” Howls Callahan. I think I've probably listened to this song more than any other on the album and I guess I would define it as much favourite track, though in contrast, it’s also probably most out of sync with the rest of the album. Similarly to Bloody Wings, I like the songs, but the placement in the track listing is confusing to me. It messes with the flow of the album.

Side-B opens with All Your Women Things, is to me, the most heartbreaking song on the album...Though the closer 'Hangman Blues' is a pretty close second, the way Callahan describes his ex-partner’s belongings, the seemingly insignificant things that seem so prominent in retrospect. He goes on to use the same format of description to talk about her breasts and personality. He dates the track as it having been 'seven years' since thee relationship and that thinking of her still makes him “weak in the knees.” Powerful stuff.

'Whistling Teapot (Rag)' is the most uplifting song atmospherically. Lize might sound somewhat optimistic in tone, but its lyrics swipe all chance of the song being considered a happy one. Whereas Whistling Teapot with it’s high notes and “Woo-hoos!” is a sort of fun sadness in a way. Though it should be noted, that this is a very brief feeling to be cut off right away.

The ninth song, 'Four Hearts in a Can' is a companion piece to Bloody Wings in that they both seem to try and convey the message of the album through metaphor, whereas the rest of the tracks deal with it directly. I would interpret this track to be talking about that feeling you get after a fight with your significant other, that drive, walk or whatever you may do to try and get away from it. The inevitability of course, returns to you eventually, but for that brief moment you attempt an escape at it. It doesn’t quite capture the feeling, but it definitely blue-maps it pretty well.

The final track, 'Hangman Blues' opens with the sound of Bill Callahan letting out snarling and empty-sounding laughter: “Ha, ha ha”. He repeats this between each section of lyric. It’s an interesting way to end the record and it helps curve the atmosphere of this closure. Not quite resolved, but more like post-trauma acceptance. You will never forget it, but you somehow accept it. The thing I like best about the track is that it is an entirely acapella, no instruments are featured at all.

Overall, The Doctor Came at Dawn is a achingly beautiful album and while definitely not perfect, despite it’s flaws it is an incredible listen almost every single time. Bill Callahan does not disappoint and though his break up must have been difficult, I for one, am truly grateful he was able to express it in such a way and share it with the world.


Friday, 9 March 2012

Clark - Iradelphic

There's no denying Englishman Chris Clark can produce ground-shattering speaker-rusting music from such simple constructs as the many synths and drum machines electronic music can find itself emerging from. My review of 'Turning Dragon' last year was undeniable proof of Clark's clear-cut deliverance of this. And though previous release 'Totems Flare' may have been a slightly smoother and soluble blip in both its content and its deliverance, there's no denying this man's sound stands atop the many waverings of analog effects and chirpy organs that litter the IDM databanks. So it's thankful that 2012 marks the return of Warp's most notoriously rough-edged musician, 'Iradelphic' the name for this twelve-track outing.

Unlike most musicians in the same field, Clark seems to find no purpose in over-longing the lengths of his compositions - Iradelphic here the first album since his debut 'Clarence Park' to run short of the forty-minute mark - but much like his discography that follows the same path, the tracks here don't tend to fall short because of it. And even if opener 'Henderson Wrench' is considered a total one-eighty on instrument choice alone - a murmur of Latin-swung guitars followed soon by a rustle of percussion underneath - Clark retains his signature hypnotic-yet-sudden pass across the waves of his compositions. Even if it is a major contrast, it's an intriguing build-up to 'Com Touch' which snaps back to the mesmerizing lull of records previous, its darting analog expanses exemplifying a rustle of conjured melodies. The drums which then kick-in at the half-way mark take control of the rhythm and it amplifies the track far from such simple ecstasy.

Indeed, instruments of both string and organ origin are used in as equal measures - if not more - to that of percussion as is showcased on 'Tooth Moves'...but it's the percussive organics to these drums, clashing alongside the grittiness and worming of synths, that really do make their mark here. The album doesn't, like 'Body Riddle' or 'Turning Dragon', try and extrovert (almost pressurize) us into a state of emotive mentality. Instead, it's almost responsive, in contrast to expressive. The synths feel more thought-out and considered; the layering more balanced and proportionate to one another. And in result, the overall mix and end result feels secure and protective. The stop-start ambiguity of 'Open', which introduces the use of vocals here, compliments earlier instrumentation with wavering lyrics - the up-and-down progression of organs and drumbeats establishing a somewhat tense and nervy lead through.

As I find myself listening through to the album, there is that sense that maybe this safe-guarded recurrence that flows through the record isn't all bad news. True, it feels like at any second the tracks - and indeed, the album thereafter - may slip into a totality of pure neutral ground (and for a Clark record, that's hard to come by), but for whatever reason, it's executed quite well given the palette of instrumentation usually is that of synths and percussion of whatever shape or form (or even filter). But it isn't always necessarily bad. 'Ghosted', for example, which isn't exactly the most forward-thinking, forward-thrusted track Clark has produced, still manages to conjure up this clankety-clank maneuverability that grits along with rusty intent.

But if the 'Iradelphic' of previous was something of a mind-settler and nothing more than reactive, the grand scale and boldness in execution that is 'The Pining' certainly tears an almighty gap in that solidarity. Here, divided into three parts, 'The Pining' is as far from tolerant and secluded as its fellow counterparts. Part 1 refuses to keep to the same joyous swing, wavering between nestled strings, hand-clapping and hand-smacking drums and the overall intensity of something that, indeed, becomes emotive and refusing to remain still. Part 2 twists this uneasily empathetic nervousness into something more on par with that of a dance or disco-glittered arena. The rising and falling of synths and string patterns remains, but behind the crunch and rustle that becomes the track's epicenter, it - along with these angelic-like voices that descend from above us - the response becomes more echoed and voided. And as if this were some chronicle of departure or vanishment, Part 3 feels more ambient and open; the shortest of the trilogy, it drifts off into obscure wails. Quite fitting then that closer 'Broken Kite Footage' feels almost drained - almost without awareness - that it produces this distant droning of what feels like an organ sound but feels too clouded and opaque that it becomes merely lost in the absurdity of 'The Pining's ever-stretched shadow.

If you're like me and enjoyed Clark's more rougher, more grittier deliverance of sound, 'Iradelphic' may be harder to, not so much grasp, but envisage as something that passes on the torch of testing our approach to these altered sounds - these rearranged instrumentals and roughened programming of synthetic beats. But there's no doubting Clark has not lost touch with electronic music's finer details. And while there is more to think about, it's not something that's going to be requiring any revision or ventures into the knowledge banks. Rather than seeing his dark, rusted edges of sound experimentation being tarnished, consider them instead, polished and refined: a new day, a new discovery...a new venture.