Switched On – Gabe Gurnsey: Diablo (Phantasy Sound / PIAS)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Diablo is an album for transportation. Not the car journey or train ride, though I can confirm it works on both – more the idea of transporting the listener straight into a hot, sweaty basement club somewhere, in the dead of night.

Gabe Gurnsey describes his new opus as being ‘formed out of a lot of trust and lust’, and credits his musical and physical other half, Tilly Morris, for her role in proceedings – not just as vocalist but as quality control and muse. Together they have made an album whose theme is release and escape, and to do it they use banks of keyboard sounds, vocal manipulation and a vocal hook or ten.

What’s the music like?

Hedonistic, in the best possible way. The twisting synth lines appear almost immediately on the horizon and stay for the duration, which is a good thing as they complement Morris’s voice perfectly. A fine first track, the single Push, sets out the stall, then the following Hey Diablo crackles with atmosphere.

With its vocals, Power Passion has an edge, leaning on 80s influences for its source material but also nailing a contemporary sound. The richly coloured Blessings struts forward confidently, while the synths on I Love A Sea On Fire bubble and weave, the deadpan vocal matched with liquid loops. Give Me is especially good, its vocal couplet beginning “Give me your oxygen”.

Special mention should be made of Morris, who proves the ideal foil to his electronics on this record. She brings something of the Eurythmics / Human League vibe to the table, but there is also a strong helping of Blancmange in the deadpan approach – which on repeated listening has a lot more depth than first meets the ear.

Does it all work?

Yes. There is a real frisson in a lot of these tracks, capturing the optimism and escapism we all feel on a good night in a club.

Is it recommended?

It is. Diablo is one of those albums looking backwards and forwards simultaneously, and Gurnsey’s awareness of both directions means that this new album works a treat.

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