- by D R Pautsch Rating:5 Release Date:2016-08-19 Label: Sudden Records / Canvasback
So here is the proposition. Drummer of Alt-J uses downtime between albums to release his own instrumental ambient album of 21 pieces of music that are named after cities or other things and rarely have more than one word titles. All the tracks except Meh, yes there really is a track called Meh, are less than five minutes and often a lot shorter than that.
To try and get your head round it you might want to think of the two Alt J albums so far. Their debut was something fresh, new and a real find. The follow up was just a lack of progression with the odd diverting moment but ultimately quite dull. Rather unfortunately High Anxiety is far more like the follow up than the debut album. It has moments of intrigue and moments where you will find you head nodding in approval of the beat. But that's as diverting as it gets.
High Anxiety isn't bad by any means. Blew is a good example of a track that actually progresses from a dull plodding number into something interesting when it hits the middle eastern section, then it disappears into a wash of noise and spoken word that just doesn't hold enough interest. System actually is a good track that would benefit from more airplay or a smaller number of tracks on the album so it doesn't get lost. Oslo is possibly the highlight of the piece. Its layered structure actually draws you in before it finishes.
And that's possibly the problem with the whole album. Not enough of the tracks do that. With 21 of them its difficult to really find enough memorable moments to love and come back to. Its almost wallpaper music that's there to be heard but not done anything with. It doesn't engender love, hate or any emotion. Its all a bit Meh. Which brings us nicely to that track. It's 5 minutes of Meh, the first of which is a spiralling number that goes nowhere, followed by a change in mode which eventually morphs together to no great effect. That sounds harsher than its meant to be, but its just not very interesting.
There is somewhere, I am sure, a videogame looking for a soundtrack. A slightly odd game that's quite cerebral and kind of like Portal. Thom Sonny Green has provided that soundtrack. It won't distract from the gameplay, won't have you humming along. It will just be a companion piece for your slightly left of centre gameplay.