Kind of Pointless?
Holl(i)y reviews a bunch of albums

Foma - Phobus (Little Kiss Records)

Phobus, 'twould appear, is a concept album in two acts - Earth and Mars (The sleeve notes also inform us that in Greek mythology Phobus, son of the God of War, is the God of fear, panic and anxiety - the flipside of a state of war and violence. Maybe we should all organise ritual ceremonies in Phobus' name?). The story is: small robot gets sick of earth, goes to Mars; Robot's plans go wrong, comes back to Earth by mistake; human race blows itself up and the nuclear rain falls. Not bad for a half-hour album.

This unsettlingly topical epic strikes a balance between wryness and woe, between howling rock-outs reminiscent of a whirling dust storm and gently desolate interludes. Inventive in that quiet, self-effacing way which means it's easy to just take it on the tunes' face value without giving way to beard stroking unless you want to, Phobus contains enough bleeping noises and squalls of outlandish feedback to uphold the space age theme without ever making itself inaccessible. In fact, it's so full of gorgeously shy tunes that the listener wants to bestow the adjective "lovely" - except that it's also rather too adult and full of humorous, worldly-wise regret to allow one to sum it up in such a twee manner.

So, Phobus is an album with much to recommend it. Smart, technological indie-pop with a heart and a prioritising of good tunes - those who like Flaming Lips and similar dreamy pop with spikes in it might well enjoy Foma's take on the genre. Get yer ticket into space today…

Stasi - Mixed Inglish (Riot Club Music)

Heavy prog rock with bombastic vocals which're a tad like Muse in the bits where they're singing in tune, but not particularly Muse-esque at all at the times when they scream. Hell of a lot of variation within every (very long) song, with the guitars switching from choppy to chiming and the mood following them from antagonistic to contemplative. Prog with a metal chorus, maybe?

And this isn't and never will be my kind of music. It's over the top and flailing without the emotional depth to back up that histrionic nature - or if the emotion is there, it's hard to see it as credible when it's expressed in such a formulaic, paint by numbers way. And, indeed, when the manner in which it's expressed dedicates so much effort to the presentation and to showcasing fancy fretwork, and so little to… well, to some sense of being true, of having an agenda beyond the riffs and the bombast. Impressiveness isn't enough; and emotion tends to be hard to credit when married to a formula so tried and tested - familiarity deadens the impact, and all that's left is a wish to not have to listen to any more exhibitionist guitaring.

Adem - Love and Other Planets (Domino)

Adem is a member of Fridge, and between food-chilling engagement he is, well, just Adem. And in the guise of Adem he creates albums which he calls "contemporary folk" - a genre which I agree is the most fitting one to describe his stripped down, experimental sound.

All the songs on here can clearly be identified as Solo Numbers - you'd not listen to 'em and expect the man to have a massive band, or think the artist were anything but a man called Adem. And yet this obviously folky identity is almost in spite of the nature of the songs; beneath Adem's spaced-out, choral vocals are a multitude of layered, experimental sounds, which would seem in the writing about to indicate an electro artist rather than a folk identity. And yet, I assure you, this album is not electro. It just happens that a folk artist has used electro instruments rather than a guitar. Handclaps in stuttering rhythms provide a surreal backing track; gentle chimes hang in the air around the vocals; ethereal swooping noises make a delicately tactile atmosphere.

Does it work? Well… not to my tastes. Thing is that it's all too… too insubstantial. Too ethereal, too delicate, and in general too low in impact. That use of delicate chiming means that the vocals have to be delicate and lost in turn, and therefore the whole thing simply floats by me, lost in the confines of its own choice of instrumentation. That said, I can hear how those who're more enamoured of the soft approach would find in this album a hell of a lot to admire and would be utterly enchanted by it all. To my mind, however, there's simply not enough behind the cleverness to hook me in.

The Longcut - A Call and Response (Deltasonic)

This debut album from The Longcut is apparently "hotly anticipated", though history is silent as to who by. We want names, we want places, we want dates. Maybe the only people who've been hotly anticipating it are their PR company, or their label - would that really count?

And I suppose it is quite possible that someone, somewhere has indeed been hotly anticipating this, but I'd be hard pressed to guess why. A promising start full of squalling, attitudinal noise made me think I'd accidentally stumbled across something Really, Really Exciting… but things soon descended into a pained echo-epic of the kind where the vocals are drenched in reverb and the guitars are layered over each other, and stayed in that so-well-trodden-out-ears-can-walk-it-in-their-sleep groove until the album was over.

And The Longcut are rather good at treading that path - quite competent, good at playing their instruments, clearly know all about chords, etc etc. But… well, it's another case of a genre which has just become so formulaic that one could chart the emotional range which'll be covered throughout the album after hearing the first four bars of the first song. And this situation really takes the power away from any attempt at being evocative, and leaves one with an emotional medium which utterly fails to convey any emotion. And which is therefore really kinda pointless.


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