Switched On – Pye Corner Audio – Let’s Emerge! (Sonic Cathedral)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This is the first album from Pye Corner Audio – aka Martin Jenkins – for the Sonic Cathedral label. It is a wholly logical move, given the producer’s work with Ride guitarist Andy Bell on Social Dissonance, a live recording he made at a Sonic Cathedral night at The Social back in 2019.

It was the first meeting for the pair, and it ticked a lot of musical boxes which lead to the collaboration on this album, where Bell plays guitar on five of the ten tracks. The impetus for this long player is markedly different from Pye Corner Audio’s last in 2021, which was inspired by the underground fungal pathways where plants communicate. This one reaches for the sun, bathing in the summer heat – which makes its release into the middle of a UK heatwave all the more pertinent.

As a bonus, Let’s Emerge! is fronted by vibrant artwork from Marc Jones, consciously drawing on sleeves from LFO, Spaceman 3 and early Stereolab in his vivid colouring.

What’s the music like?

As warm as the cover suggests it should be. Jenkins’ slight adaptation of his music for Sonic Cathedral does indeed take it closer to ‘shoegaze’ if we are looking for a musical label, but it means the music he produces is full of rich colour and dreamlike possibility.

De-Hibernate acts as an awakening, introducing the big sonic backdrop with which Jenkins operates, but also showing how closer inspection reveals studied details in the work of Andy Bell. Broad brush chords from the keyboards, then, are complemented by more intricate guitar work, a blueprint that works extremely well as the album progresses.

The wash of sound on Lyracal confirms the temperature, bathing in consonant harmonies and shimmering textures, while Does It Go Dark shifts to lower pitched drones, its woozy outlines gradually revealing a chord progression of poise and power.

Haze Loops is a rich tapestry of warm sounds, more of a poolside chillout number, before some slightly smaller tracks link seamlessly together as part of a bigger suite. Let’s Emerge Part One breaks like a wave into the ears, retreating to the deeper colours of Saturation Point. Sun Stroke (so appropriate as I type this on the hottest day in UK history!) is thick with humidity, and then after the brief Let’s Emerge Part Two, Luminescence harnesses more rhythmic drive, synths bubbling just below the surface. Finally Warmth Of The Sun, the musical culmination of the album, brings the guitar to its greatest prominence yet, shimmering on the surface with fuzzy vocals and supportive percussion.

It says much that Andy Bell’s contributions are subtly integrated into the music. Not for him the posturing of a typical ‘featured guitarist’ – he gets the mood of Jenkins’ writing and adds his own subtleties to complement it, rather than going for standout melodies each time. It is to his enormous credit that the two work as equals and achieve something far more meaningful.

Does it all work?

It does. Music evokes time and place better than almost anything, and Let’s Emerge! certainly does that with its hot weather soundscapes.

Is it recommended?

Yes – a rather special addition to Martin Jenkins’ work until now as Pye Corner Audio, taking him in the direction of sunnier climes while reminding us of his capacity to evoke images and moods through his electronic music. Andy Bell’s guitar work is the icing on the cake.

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Playlist – Digitonal

It gives us great pleasure to welcome Digitonal‘s Andy Dobson to Arcana’s playlist section.

He has been busy working on album number four for Digitonal, Set The Weather Fair – released only last Friday on the Just Music label. It features a typically blissful set of sonic pictures, with extra-descriptive hues from Dobson’s clarinet and cello.

The Spotify playlist here is a selection of music that led to the album, and it includes restful but thoroughly immersive ambient music from varied sources such as Loscil, Pye Corner Audio, Philip Glass and BT:

Our thanks to Andy for this regenerating collection of music. Digitonal’s new album Set The Weather Fair is out now on Just Music. You can listen and purchase on the Bandcamp embed below: