by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Described as a ‘technicolour companion piece’ to last year’s Flicker album, his second release, Strange Loops & Outer Psych is a collection drawn from the EPs he has released in the intervening period.
To quote Bell himself, “Influences, stripped down acoustic reworks and remixes by my friends, comrades and heroes all hopefully help the listener see where my head was when I made Flicker, but also it stands up as a decent listen in its own right.
What’s the music like?
Bell is absolutely right – this is a really effective standalone piece in its own right, thanks to some judicious placing of extra tracks and quality remixes.
Maps in particular turn in an excellent contribution to the second category, James Chapman’s take on It Gets Easier presenting a starry-eyed throwback towards Hacienda days that complements the opener, David Holmes‘ dreamy rework of The Sky Without You. Richard Norris, meanwhile, uses a walking-pace beat to bring good vibes to Something Like Love. Claude Cooper adds a winning break beat to Sidewinder, while bdrmm bring sparkling treble and dubby bass to Way Of The World.
Meanwhile the original tracks find Bell in really strong vocal form, too – as good as at any point in his career. Listen, The Snow Is Falling is an evocative piece, while The Way Love Used To Be is unusually tender and affecting in its outlook. Bell’s voice is unforced in a similarly touching acoustic versions of She Calls The Tune, Love Is The Frequency, Lifeline and Something Like Love.
Countering this is the ‘psych’, a pulsing mix of World Of Echo from A Place To Bury Strangers.
Does it all work?
It does. An ideally named and appropriately dreamy collection.
Is it recommended?
It is. Andy Bell is in a particularly creative phase of his career, even for him – and whether it’s his instrumental GLOK project or this hazy, slightly retrospective workout, he is on fine form at every turn. Strange Loops & Outer Psych is a blissful, uplifting listen.
Listen & Buy