Klaxons: Surfing The Void Track-By-Track Review
, June 21st, 2010 12:57
Luke Turner straps on his space suit and blasts off into a track-by-track journey through the second Klaxons album, Surfing The Void
And so Surfing The Void paddles through the broken spume and gets stuck straight into the psychedelic waves that are crashing onto the foreshore of 2010. This is a cynicism-defying belter, straight in with the vocal hook, a chorus at one minute that made it the obvious choice for a single. And heck, if it isn't followed by a guitar solo. When I first saw the Klaxons, they behaved as if the guitar was a curious thing for hitting and dropping on the floor as much as making music. Its easy and happy integration here seems to be a pointer to a far more focussed beast... which, after all this time away and talk of abandoned albums that scared the b'Jesus out of their label, it might as well be. Interestingly, as we said when we reviewed 'Flashover', there are hints of Muse here, but despite the lyrics of "other worlds" and "true horizons" it doesn't have that cold daftness of Matt the rat & co.
What the hell is this? Autotune - or at least a convincing impression of it. The beat is a ponderous and sturdy one... one-time touring drummer Steffan Halperin is now a full-time member of the band (or at least that's what their recent subterranean press shots suggest) and he leads the way here. There's not much room to breathe in 'Same Space', as in the background umpteen layers of guitar, abstract noise and a hulker of a bassline do their business. It's a pretty bold choice so early on in the record, but this being Klaxons, you can hear an excellent song knocking about in there too.
'Surfing The Void'
The title track, and the sort of usage of the English language that the Quietus can commend. Is it a reference to the scene in Dark Star when the dude leaves the space ship in order to float the outer reaches of the cosmos on a longboard? That seems, surely, the sort of thing that Klaxons would be into writing about. This is a cousin of 'Atlantis To Interzone', with its high-pitched vocal and the constant feeling that the track is somehow about to come alive, question its own existence, and collapse down upon itself. Fantastic stuff.
'Valley Of The Calm Trees'
"We're passing through the clouds of diamond dust" sings Jamie Reynolds. There's a pattern emerging here: Klaxons creating a soundtrack to the cover of those pulp science fiction novels with their incongruous spaceships and primary colour planetscapes. All very prog in thematics, then, if not in song - this is far too pacey for that. It's another really densely produced track, all sorts of piano, drums (again close to the fore here) and guitar. It totally makes sense that this record is produced Ross Robinson, the man responsible for Korn's debut, At The Drive-In's Relationship Of Command and Machine Head's The Burning Red. At first it hardly feels like a pop moment (and indeed, aside from the single there haven't really been any) and if Polydor are happy to put this out you have to wonder how sick the original record made them. Having said that, on a second listen the melody and strength of Klaxons' songwriting here really starts to stand out, like stars emerging through the interplanetary gloaming.
The best realised track yet. It is, with a title like that, utterly preposterous. "Venusha / You make so much sense to me" go the lyrics over rolling, marshal drums and solar flare synthesiser blasts. This is a song with superb momentum, ending with a chorus of "Venusha / take me by the hands". It might be a very generous compliment to make, but this really is starting to sound like Aphrodites Child re-imagined by a bunch of young gents who've got a bit confused when off their noggins and decided London is an outpost inhabited by mythical denizens of Alpha Centauri. It ends with a typewriter hammering away, composing a desperate communique home. Excellent. What was that new rave thing they invented by mistake, again?
Now the pace is really picking up. Great lumbering low end here, a menacing two note riff, and another of those very Klaxons choruses where the lyrics are forced to stick to the melody like glue, and never let up. Blowback, baby. Again there's a lot more guitar here, growling in the background amidst the meteor showers of drums and drones. All of these tracks, though hovering around the the three or four minute mark, distort time - extra astronomical indeed. This LP is fast turning out to be a collection of mini-epics and no mistake.
It certainly sounds as if Klaxons had a lot of fun recording this record. 'Twin Flames' is the murkiest, slowest track thus far. The vocals are a marching song for a cyborg army, singing about disappearing "into the the cycle of the here and now". It must be decades since a record so sounded like it was recorded with one eye to the receiving end of the Jodrell Bank telescope, and a nostril fixed to the end of a rolled up 20. This is perhaps why so many scoff and sneer at Klaxons, although of course they're wrong. Again, it's hard not to think of Klaxons 2010 as being a vastly improved, more conceptual Muse where art has won out over pop and (the wrong sort of) pomposity.
As you may have read, we loved 'Flashover' when Klaxons first unveiled the track online a few months back. It sounds even better in the context of the rest of Surfing The Void; the moment when they achieve full pipe in the cosmic rock continuum. Argh, this stuff is catching. This is one of the best tracks of the year so far, and further evidence that Klaxons have followed the 2009 trend for releasing stunning follow-ups to under par debut albums.
A great way to follow 'Flashover' and another track that characterises much of Surfing The Void - there are about three or four different pop songs in here, but Klaxons have jumbled them all together in a bloody great big kaleidoscope. Surely will be a single. Myths of The Near Future was a bunch of mates suddenly surprised that they had to scrabble together all their ideas for world-conquering pop songs, but not actually knowing what they were doing. Klaxons' second album, by contrast, is superbly conceived but never fussy, bold and, frankly, like nothing else around right now.
Surfing The Void is one of those albums that you expect to end with a glorious nod-out, and Klaxons don't disappoint. It's 'Flashover' at the moment it hits lightspeed, a scree of hyperdrive-failure white noise alternating with pummelling drums and some weird organ squirgles borrowed off Chrome Hoof. Indeed, there's a kinship with the silver-caped disco doom troupe, as there is with Teeth Of The Sea, Drum Eyes and all those groups currently pioneering a new wave of the British cosmic. By the time its five minutes your up, Klaxons have dispatched what seems like an album's worth of different songs. By the time the album itself is done (and it feels like more than the 38 minutes displayed on the LCD), Klaxons have escorted you on a journey through a sumptuous wormhole.
Klaxons Surfing The Void is released via Polydor on August 23rd