Diagrams - Chromatics

by Nathan Fidler Rating:7 Release Date:2015-01-15

With the nucleus of Tunng being the solo work of Sam Genders to begin with, it’s possible to see his solo exploits under the name Diagrams as more of the same. But most Tunng fans will tell you that nothing has been the same since he left. Chromatics is the second album of what is usually pegged at avant-garde or folktronica – but with a more accessible twist to the story.

There are portions of this album which sound like communications between humans and alien cyborgs, with the basic acoustic strums making a base for ripples of electronics. The intelligent indie-pop of ‘Phantom Power’ is a deliberate analysis of the fallible human spirit, “I’m just a primate falling apart” being the mantra.

What makes this so much easier to listen to is the fact that Genders has cooked up a sound which you might expect to hear if Elbow had a go at playing like The Shins. The verses might feel a little over-reaching lyrically and the tone is dull (see ‘Gentle Morning Song’ and ‘Just a Hair’s Breadth’), but when he truly rides the wave of a melody, particularly on choruses, the album is elevated into the sublime.

‘You Can Talk to Me’ is a touching, supportive song with a chorus which will live long on your lips, but this isn’t a one off - the album is dotted with accessible arrangements and melodies. The music on display is uncomplicated and won’t wow fans of the artier side to Tunng’s work, mainly because Diagrams is about getting a better pairing of computer-aided sound with the organic. ‘Dirty Broken Bliss’ is the best example of this, one of a few occasions where the lyrics lend themselves openly to the sound, “spectral mist” and “walking wonders” just some of the choice couplings.

The nudge towards a more digestible sound is a commendable one for a man who knows how to put a song together. If he can untangle some of the more pretentious attempts at poetry then there could be even more strength here.

It’s an album of general positivity which can be enjoyed casually but not one you can invest in wholly. Bonus points for mentioning an X-wing fighter in the closing track.

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