Talk Less, Say More
England Without Rain
, February 28th, 2012 11:09
Earlier this month, Skrillex celebrated his success at the Grammy awards by using his Twitter profile to insist, "If I can win grammys then that means all you yet to be seen bedroom geniuses will one day TAKEOVER THE WORLD". Though his music sounds nothing like Skrillex's, Matthew Jennings, aka Talk Less, Say More, may be just such a bedroom genius poised for world domination. While some scoffed at Skrillex's hubris or pondered the potentially hazardous consequences of so many agoraphobic masterminds simultaneously seizing global power, Jennings was probably mentally allocating an appropriate space on his mantelpiece for the coming swarm of gold statuettes or taking aim with his recently invented laser cannon upon the Hoover Dam. One or the other. Either way, his latest album, England Without Rain, just released by autonomist net label, Records on Ribs, does for homemade electro-pop what Heston Blumenthal once did for the menu at a Little Chef off the A303 near Basingstoke: tarts it up good and proper with a combination of modern technological wizardry and impeccable taste.
Not so long ago, making records in one's bedroom would involve a tape four-track and a six-inch Casio keyboard and tended to result in something that resembled a singer from a Greek restaurant recorded in the middle of a motorway at rush hour with four million bees on backing vocals. Today, recording technology has become so miniaturised that most professional studios contain nothing but a few dozen rack-mounted hollow black plastic boxes with flashing lights on them whose sole purpose is to disguise the fact that the only thing in the studio that actually does anything is a computer just like the one you are reading this on. And on the basis of England Without Rain, bedroom recorded pop records are now capable of sounding like a Daft Punk side project made in collaboration with The Chap, an elite squad of Stockholm's hippest musicians, and Eric Bell, former guitarist with Thin Lizzy.
The first track on the record is about "making a record" thus creating a self-reflexive strange loop which according to certain definitions of artificial intelligence means that it might actually be a conscious being. Chances are the song itself is planning to take over the world on its own - and considering it's probably the only three-minute pop song you've heard recently that starts with a sample of a Japanese koto before bursting into a rush of pulsing, filter-swept French electro, perhaps that would be no bad thing if it did. The title track opens with a surprisingly jig-like mandolin that loops itself into a ray of sunshine and ends with the arpeggiating bit from the beginning of 'You Got the Love'; somewhere in the middle Jennings thugs it out in double-tracked, self-harmonised vocals about broken strings and frustration and whether or not anyone is actually listening. 'Glockenspiel', a song about spending a romantic evening in with your favourite percussion instruments, sounds like Mungo Jerry covered by Cursor Miner. In moments of this track and others such as 'Like Neon', Jennings shows the same fondness for the soundworld of Steve Reich's minimalism without the patience for its longeurs to be found in the Reich-approved records of Dutch Uncles.
The poppiest song on the record is probably 'Black Eyes' which seems to be a bid for Eurovision pitched somewhere between Sandy Shaw and Sebastian Tellier, even if some of the judges may be concerned that the lyric about being taken into "your Sicilian sleep" may be a reference to the murder of Italian magistrate, Giovanni Falcone. My personal favourite might be stuttering slow jam 'I Didn't Realise' if only for its lyric about "smoking for our lives" and the fact that the backwards bits remind me of when I would have to turn the tape over in my four-track recorder in order to achieve the same effect. Album closer 'Double Helixxx' may be the best song about synthetic biology since Eggs covered OMD's 'Genetic Engineering'.
England Without Rain is an album with such a surfeit of ideas and imagination that one almost feels that it's not really fair. Think of poor chumps like the Kings of Leon or Death Cab for Cutie who have never had a single idea in their lives, and here's smug little Jennings parading his wheelbarrow full down the street, spilling good ideas over the sides willy nilly like they were acorns at the end of a particularly fruitful harvest. Something ought to be done. Perhaps someone should sign him to a big corporate label and throw a truck load of money at him. That should streamline some of this 'imagination' out of him. In the meantime, download England Without Rain from Records on Ribs so that you can talk about about how much you like his "early stuff" when Jennings, like Skrillex, is bragging about his Grammy awards and impending global take-over on Twitter.