Switched On – The Utopia Strong: International Treasure (Rocket Recordings)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Steve Davis, Kavus Torabi and Mike York made a strong impression on their debut in 2018 as The Utopia Strong – but International Treasure confirms they were only just getting started.

Now their line-up is established, Davis has confirmed what it all means: “I see myself as a strong midfielder, or a centre back. Kavus and Mike are like the Lionel Messi or Ronaldo in the equation, and I’m setting situations up for them.” This modest appraisal gives a clue to Davis’s own role with the modular electronic backdrops, which are so important to the more improvisatory work that goes on up front.

International Treasure, the trio’s second album, takes them further along a journey which has already explored more musical dimensions than they thought possible.

What’s the music like?

International Treasure has a strong emotional pull throughout its nine tracks. It is also difficult to place stylistically, which proves to be one of its strongest selling points. At no point does it feel like the record was placed under any restrictions, and yet its musical progress is carefully managed at every turn, creating a rare intensity.

Another feature of the trio’s work is the vivid colouring they apply to the sounds, which operate as strong primary musical colours. This is in part due to Torabi’s acquisition of a guzheng (a Chinese plucked zither) which is used on Shepherdess, and the set of pipes and wind instruments York brings to the table, like an updated version of the Penguin Café Orchestra.

Does it all work?

It certainly does. There are some fascinating colours and tableaus presented here, each of them handsomely rewarding repeated listening.

Is it recommended?

Yes – as indeed is the first album. If you’re an electronic music devotee then this is a mandatory purchase, and a sign that even greater things lie ahead for the unlikely trio.

Listen & Buy

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