Top critical review
10 people found this helpful
on 12 March 2010
I picked up a copy of this after being swept up in the wave of hype and gushing reviews that accompanied its release. After a bit of time to properly digest it I thought I'd post my review to counterbalance the many, as I see it, bafflingly positive ones.
I will summarise my main opinions and put the more detailed breakdown of my comments below for those that have more time to read!
Pros: The drum production is excellent. It has an unusual and perhaps `original' sound overall: it probably is an album that people should hear for themselves.
Cons: Whilst new and innovative is good, it shouldn't be a means in of itself; the music needs to actually `work' and, for me, this doesn't. The main vocals are often dreadful, there are some very poorly chosen sampled sounds and too many of the tracks just meander around without really going anywhere. In fact many of the songs just sound like demos that have yet to be fully realised. "Interesting" is a word that kept springing to mind; not always in a positive way.
Therefore my rating: a generous 3 stars, mostly for having tried to be different.
A track-by-track breakdown:
TIME XONE: A short, sombre tune using low woodwind and brass which sounds quite unusual at first but ultimately comes across like a dull Grade 5 piece adapted for ensemble. It doesn't really go anywhere but, perhaps, suggests that interesting things might follow.
WE WANT WAR: Clearly a centrepiece of the album. The drums are good but are they doing enough to be at the forefront of most of the track? The sword-schwing noise goes well with the Japanese-style drums. There are some very tacky sampled vocal sounds on here and the sing-speak vocals just make it sound drab (another word that kept springing to mind). Where is it all going? Apparently "sea breeze" is the climax. Hmmm.
THREE THOUSAND: This has more of the awful sampled voice sound triggered off a keyboard, the drums are OK, we get more of the sword-schwing noise (not so novel anymore) and drab talking over the top. Unmemorable.
HOLOGRAM: Tempts the listener in with left-right phased snare drums, but the "singer"'s tune is so all over the place he can't actually sing the notes he's written for himself. Short and unstructured, it just fizzles out.
ATTACK MUSIC: Unfortunately that awful sampled voice sound pops up throughout this track, spoiling it. The female singers do a much better job than the main man and the woodwind over the simple bass riff works quite nicely.
FIRE-POWER: A switch to 6/8 time is a nice change. Really good drums (again) but very annoying vocals (again)(he's still trying to sing while speaking, then he tries two different ways of pronouncing the word "fire" which sounds silly and as if he couldn't think of anything better to do). At the end the tune of Time Xone comes back. Was he not sure how else to end it?
ORION: Probably my least favourite track of all, combining the tacky voice sample YET AGAIN, excruciatingly dreadful singing (especially in the chorus) and another meandering tune that once more the singer can't seem to actually follow himself. All this coupled with some detuned backing. Euch. The drums are decent though...
CANTICLE: A short `palette-cleanser'.
DRUM COURTS-WHERE CORALS LIE: Probably my favourite track - the elements of his music work better here, and he half-whispers the vocals which works far, far better. Good abrupt ending.
WHITE CHORDS: Good almost shoegaze-y chorus where you can just about ignore his singing, but in the verses the strained out-of-tune-ness makes it almost unlistenable.
5: The best of the non-drumming tracks. Good Steve-Reich-esque overlapping glockenspiel/vibraphone phrases, with proper choral vocals (see, you don't have to trigger them off a keyboard!) and clashing brass chords to finish. Leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth at the end, at least.