The last time we heard from Sam Genders (aka ‘Diagrams’ and former member of folktronica group ‘Tunng’) we were treated to 2012’s ‘Black Light’ with its synths, drum machines and its oodles of electronica. It was an accomplished LP but came with the heavy burden of constantly being compared to ‘Hot Chip’ and ‘Metromony’ in almost every review.
Fast forward three years and things have been turned completely on their head for the artist’s latest release ‘Chromatics’. The aforementioned pre-programmed fluff has been replaced by wonderful instrumentation, and the coldness of the first release has been replaced by genuine moments of beauty and warmth. Sure there are still possible comparisons to be made (what’s a music review without comparisons), with Phantom Power not only bearing the same name as Welsh indie group ‘Super Furry Animals’ 2003 album but also sounding as though it could have been plucked directly from it. Vocally there is also an uncanny similarity between Genders and Gruff Rhys voices, which is why the previous comparison is possibly also such an easy one to make.
But that’s it … no more comparisons, and truth be told none are required. With Genders relocation from the busyness of London, to a more homely Sheffield, comes an album that has a more personal feel to it. Genders himself explained that “There’s lots of hope in the songs. They shouldn’t be taken too literally mind you… in my head Chromatics is life in Technicolor; with all its ups and downs.”
Proof of this comes in the form of tracks ‘You Can Talk to Me’ and ‘Brain’. The former is a dreamy pop tune and one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard in a long, long time. Its delicate guitars and softened drums complement Genders tender vocals to give you something closer to a lullaby than an indie-pop record. Never in a million years would something like this have appeared on ‘Black Light’. The aforementioned ‘Brain’ is also worth a listen. Its clever production ensures the music slowly creeps up on you. It’s a mishmash of instruments and genres but has a wonderful invigorating feel to it. It oozes confidence and showcases an artist not afraid to experiment.
In truth there’s not an awful lot not to like about an album which starts with three extremely impressive tracks, any of which would confidently grace the play-lists of 6Music etc. If there is disappointment to be had anywhere then it would come in the form of title-track ‘Chromatics’ and the dreary ‘Serpent’. They’re not terrible tracks but simply don’t have the ebb and flow of the remainder of the LP.
One final point of note is that the album was produced, in partnership, with Leo Abrahams. Famed for collaboration’s with Wild beasts, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Ed Harcourt and Jon Hopkins it’s hardly surprising that this album is such a success.
Forthcoming tour dates for ‘Diagrams’ are as follows…
January 21st 2015 – The Lexington, London
February 11th 2015 – Point Ephemera, Paris
February 12th 2015 – La Peniche, Lille
March 4th 2015 – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
The full track-listing for ‘Chromatics’ is as follows…
‘Gentle Morning Song’
‘You Can Talk To Me’
‘Dirty Broken Bliss’
‘The Light and the Noise’
‘Just a Hairs Breadth’
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