Switched On – Amongst The Pigeons: Silence Will Be Assumed As Acceptance

atp

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

‘We need to save humanity, because no one else will’. The stark outlook at the beginning of Daniel Parsons’ third album as Amongst The Pigeons sets the scene for a 12-track salvo against the choppy waters we find ourselves navigating. It is a first-hand response to the pandemic, the destruction of the environment, social and racial injustice, and much more besides. It is delivered through his own inimitable set of gadgetry from a garden shed outside Worthing, with home-produced music whose message travels far and wide.

What’s the music like?

Silence Will Be Assumed As Acceptance has an extremely satisfying structure, featuring a raft of carefully chosen electronics but with Parsons’ own voice opening and closing. Some of the track titles are clearly borne of the last year – N.V.O.D. especially. Standing for Natural Vectors Of Disease, this track collaborates with Richard Wiseman to call out the government on their response to the pandemic, amongst other things. There is barely concealed anger here, channeled through a hard hitting burst of electronics, and it is typical of the album’s ability to make a forceful point without resorting to cliché.

Colour Blind achieves a similar aim, Parsons’ urgent vocal nicely blended with Ollie Barron’s chorus, and while N.V.O.D. is angry, Holding My Breath works an emotive blend of flickering electronics and the well-matched vocals of Tiger Mendoza and Charis Cooper. More tender moments can be enjoyed in Bring The Stars Closer, where the cooing of singer Emma King is complemented by poolside grooves.

Before The Storm Hits is a satisfying blend of stabbing bass and a soulful vocal from Fast Trains, a complement to Megan Lundford’s persuasive tones on the following After The Storm. The beats are busy but never too obtrusive, Parsons working a healthy quotient of riffs and some really effective percussive effects. The balance is ideal, typified by the rich voice of Hannah Katy Lewis, set to quickly turning studio cogs.

The album works like a mix, with each track segued into the next, and the panning effects Parsons works in work really well on headphones. On occasion the bass hits satisfying depths, too, none more so than the fine instrumental Can You Manage? Do You Understand?

However the album’s defining moment proves to be the inspired use of a Charlie Chaplin speech on You The People. Developing like a Chemical Brothers track, it exhorts us to ‘create happiness’, to ‘make this life a wonderful adventure’. Spread Hope, with The Sad Song Co., delivers a similar if more understated message.

Does it all work?

Handsomely. Silence Will Be Assumed As Acceptance is a lean beast, scooting through its dozen tracks in under 40 minutes with no padding at all. Its message is powerful but never ‘preachy’, and the busy electronics complement the vocals rather than smothering them. A word, too, for some striking artwork from Ella Manongdo, matching the album’s impact.

Is it recommended?

Yes, enthusiastically – an album full of incident and heart but with strong underlying messages that are fiercely relevant to today’s world. It is a shot in the arm – or should I say shoulder?!

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Switched On – Erik Levander: Jökel (Glacial Movements)

erik-levander

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

‘Jökel’ is the Swedish word for glacier, with its roots in the Icelandic word ‘Jökull’. It is an entirely appropriate title for Erik Levander’s latest album, borne out of a visit to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in Iceland (seen below). He crafted a clutch of imaginary field recordings from the visit, inviting the listener to join him on a natural journey around and through this natural phenomenon.

What’s the music like?

Among his plentiful output, this will surely be one of Levander’s more minimal albums to date. Yet that is an entirely valid approach as he looks to capture the slow, incremental progress of the glacier, while also recognising the fact it sits on top of a volcano.

There are no melodies as such here, but the five tracks are compelling as they slowly develop in front of the listener’s ears. Tröskel (Threshold) has an ominous knocking sound that reoccurs as though natural bumps were going on that could lead to something much more substantial down the line. This is a theme developed in the longer Expansion, where the sound widens its perspective and more obvious pitches appear, winding outwards and upwards. This is quite chilling on headphones, before the comfort of the sounds submersed in thick ambience, as though wrapped up in ice.

Myrdalsjökull_01From there we move to Avstånd, where it is possible to discern pieces breaking off the main flow, the ambience still thick behind, before hissing and dripping sounds start to dominate the treble, again a spooky effect on headphones. Yta introduces the most definite pitches we have heard so far, rooted to a single chord initially but then changing to a pitch laden with overtones as the perspective changes. Finally, Massa (Mass) draws back a bit, letting us appreciate the sheer size of the construction, the wind audible over the snow and ice.

The five tracks last just over 50 minutes, and are definitely best heard as a whole in order for the listener to walk with Levander along the edge of this remarkable construction.

Does it all work?

Yes. Levander’s soundscapes are remarkably descriptive, sending a shiver of cold down the spine. This is not comfortable music, and when the listener has the subject matter to hand it is easy to think of the anguish involved with the melting of our glaciers. Levander successfully portrays his subject but with a fair bit of discomfort involved.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Jökel sits comfortably within the spectrum of the Glacial Movements label, and is a compelling document of a visit that clearly had a strong emotional effect on the Swedish artist. 

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