It’s been a relatively short time, slightly over a year, since Tony Young’s previous album, Love No Longer Lives Here. And, in that time, he’s clearly not been resting on his laurels. Each of the previous albums has shown a distinct progression from the last – not only in quality, perhaps, but also in the way each album introduces a subtle new influence that changes the musical direction to a noticeable degree.
Note: First posted on Connexion Bizarre on 27 October 2009
And this, needless to say, is no exception. Not that it starts particularly unusually: When We Woke Up appropriately starts in dreamy, lazy fashion with strung-out orchestral samples weaving in and out of a languid beat. Things get more interesting with the chiming, cyclic guitar intro to Walk On Empty, which once it kicks in… It’s post-punk. There is no other way to put this, but somehow Tony has managed to fuse Joy Division and his own variant of IDM.
Taking Blood moves this idea forward, with a melancholic piano taking centre stage, but again with those chiming guitars used to brilliant effect, and then Do You Feel Disposable changes the atmosphere entirely. The ominous, pulsing electronics set the scene, before a more urgent drum rhythm is added, and then guitar riffs tear through everything with Jamie Blacker from ESA’s vocals added to the mix, and the result is an urgent, unsettling track that feels like the finished article of a few ideas that were sketched out on the previous album.
If Not Something, Anything takes things back to the melancholic, post-punk influenced arena as before (and I love the french-language vocals that appear out of nowhere at the end), while Tomorrow surprises with it’s pretty, acoustic textures and weeping strings, and Falling Over Ghosts continues in this vein.
Again, a surprise is cast with the mechanised, cold features of These Walls Have Seen All – all the more surprising for the sheer depth of emotion that has already been shown in the previous seven tracks. While that melancholic air is still present, it’s really all about the industrial textures, and is certainly intriguing, even if it does seem to take an age to pull itself into action.
An Idiosyncratic Oath seems to pull all the strands across the album together, pulling in an urgent, driving rhythm, more of that marvellous guitar work, piano and strings, and then, only occasionally fully audible, a wordless melody from apparently multi-tracked vocals, and while the end result is an extremely dense production, it sounds marvellous and is probably best appreciated on headphones, loudly.
The spaced-out textures of These Opening Hours are pleasant enough, but what is really interesting is the piano melody. Is that really borrowed from an eighties hit (I’m thinking the Communards, or something)? And so we come to the last track, Summer, a track whose darker, sadder tones certainly seemed appropriate for the wet, miserable summer that we experienced here in the north of England this year, and as we head headlong through autumn, it’s tones feel all the more ‘right’ now.
And that, perhaps, is the real mastery of this album. Tony has always done a pretty good job with making “emotional” music, but here he has really excelled in this regard. Add to that the Joy Division-esque feel to much of this album – which remarkably sounds like a natural fit – and this is by some considerable distance the best album yet released under the Autoclav 1.1 moniker.