Alexis Taylor - Await Barbarians - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Alexis Taylor - Await Barbarians

by Jim Harris Rating:7 Release Date:2014-06-10

I’ve never liked Hot Chip on the first listen.  Their music always starts out for me like post-Joy Division after the club music and on into 90s irrelevance post-apocalyptic New Order. You know, like when Bernard Sumner would write a song called ‘Dracula’s Castle’ (Did he really write that song and put it on a New Order album?  Can Bernard really sing "But you came in the night and you took my heart to Dracula's castle in the dark" on the same night he sings ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart?’ I’m sure this sends Ian Curtis not only turning over in his grave, but spinning like a ghostly turbine.

But inevitably Hot Chip always creeps up on me and I end up going back. The first sign of musical greatness. So I actually looked forward to Mr Taylor’s second solo release, Await Barbarians, and while I didn’t care for his first solo album of lo-fi electro-pop, this one has something extra that keeps drawing me back. 

No, there is nothing to dance to on this one. And there’s a few too many crippled-fingered, looney tapping on a piano ditties than I care for, but the actual songs in between, while decidedly sparse, have one strong instrument that makes it work: Alexis Taylor’s voice.

At times Taylor’s voice seems almost out of place in the hip hop, synth-driven dance club of Hot Chip, like a dampener riding atop these shimmering waves of electronics, but on Await Barbarians Alexis explores the perfect platform for showcasing his uniquely fragile and deceptively strong voice. Solid examples of this are the tracks ‘Dolly and Porter’ and ‘Where Would I be?’, on which Taylor’s voice carries the tune. While the unrelentingly lo-fi quality of virtually all of this solo effort might wear on some who follow his real band, the trade-off is once again, Taylor himself. 

This is not to say Await Barbarians is a consistently solid album. Occasionally the volume is simply too low, the temperatures and textures mixed in such stridently simple structures as to almost come to a halt. Not to mention that the lyrics sometimes seem a little too clever, a little too high school hipster, as on ‘Closer to the Elderly’. 

Add to that the head-scratching instrumental tinkerings of ‘Piano Ducks’ and ‘Immune System’, and you have certain parts which weaken the whole. But isolating the strong vocal tracks of lo-fi grandeur from the distractions just might be worth the effort of anyone willing to follow Alexis Taylor’s solo musical direction.

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