It's always interesting when a new artist jumps out to popular attention. Séamus Bradd's The .Invalid has been the latest project to do this just recently, with a fair amount of ecstatic comment online from "the scene" once the album – apparently two years in the works – finally saw the light of day in the past month. So, with various people whose opinions I trust saying great things, I thought I'd pick this album up, give it a few listens, and see what I thought of the album.
The first thing to note from the album, is that like so many new projects nowadays, that this isn't something that is re-inventing the wheel. It isn't going to shake up the scene and make it look at itself anew, but nor is it going to be derided for going backwards. But what becomes obvious within the first couple of songs – particularly amid the very good, aggressive melodies and punchy beats of Breaksequence – is that Séamus Bradd has been paying particular attention to certain bands in recent times, to the point that their influence is at points overwhelming.
So let's get the names out of the way, shall we? Without even looking at the "sounds like" bit on the Facebook page, this album leans very heavily indeed on the sounds of Imperative Reaction, and to a lesser extent to the relatively obscure sounds of Canadian band Fractured (the latter contribute a remix, interestingly enough) – and sure enough, IR are the first band listed on the band's influences. Fair enough – most bands start somewhere, and are frequently influenced by one band or another, and also, I'd much rather new bands started looking at these more interesting influences than yet another Suicide Commando or Combichrist clone. On the other hand, there are moments – most strikingly on Quantify, where the intro and spiralling chorus synths in particular are dead ringers for the work of Imperative Reaction.
Once I got past these strong influences, though, some of the songs are impressive beasts. It opens at a hell of a clip once past the ostensibly intro track Deletion, before entering a becalmed phase with slower, more thoughtful tracks that are notable particularly for the intricate, complex electronics that are at the core of each one. As The Sea Turns Black is especially intriguing, a bubbling cauldron of glitchy electronics and minimal beats that remains decidedly low-key for all of it's four minutes, while Not Enough keeps the slower pace, but underpinned by a heavier, more aggressive beat, and the vocals have a soaring melancholy to them to accompany the sweeping synths in the chorus.
Probably the best track for me, though, is the thumping, lengthy Beyond My Reach, where a steady, pounding rhythm dominates the full six minutes, while Séamus pushes his vocals to the limits, straining to reach every note for what appears to be a somewhat emotionally draining track too. The track that follows it, though – Overstep – is a close second, a thumping dancefloor track that has some great synth work (and is the subject of two of the most interesting remixes on the second CD, too – as is usual on amodelofcontrol.com, I'm not otherwise covering the remix album).
Not totally convinced by the closing tracks, though. Blind Myself is another track that sounds all-too-familiar to it's influences – even with the odd moment of quasi-dubstep/glitch breakdowns breaking the flow – while A Dying Breed is dominated by buzzing, harsh electronics that frankly rip through the song and dominate it to a point where the vocals feel an afterthought, and Everything is Fleeting closes the album on a suitably downbeat way, but the feel is a bit mawkish, the jagged electronics barged aside by a piano melody that repeats through the song, that might befit a death scene on TV better than here.
All told, for me this album is something of a mixed bag. There is certainly promise here for the future, but to fulfil that promise Séamus Bradd really, really needs to break away from the sound of his influences and do more with the talent that he clearly has. Some of the songs here are truly brilliant – but they are offset by a number of songs that I'll be unlikely to return to in future, as I'll simply skip them and go back to the original source(s). On the other hand, I'll be fascinated to see how he follows this up.