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All The Saints
Intro To Fractions Barnaby Smith , February 15th, 2012 10:57

It seems like an inordinately long time since All The Saints released their strident and at times fierce debut Fire On Corridor X. Indeed, it was well over three years ago. While that album didn't exactly stir the loins in any particularly fabulous way, there was enough courage and belief shown by the Alabama trio to suggest that they might be a band to evolve, spread their wings and arrive at a more eclectic and perhaps original sound a few albums or years down the road.

Back then, they were heartily beholden to all manner of shoegaze, but with most awe for A Place To Bury Strangers (on the record as fans), My Bloody Valentine and the inevitable list of British influences that hardly needs spelling out. Given the large gap between albums, you might think they had spent the time carefully considering their next step, a spot of soul-searching as they choose a potential direction now they had already exhausted their full realm of influences on that first LP.

As it turns out, Intro To Fractions hardly marks a progression or change of tack at all, not that that is such a terrible thing. This is still a thick, gloopy yet lush sheen of noise, featuring a good number of the pleasant melodic trademarks that marked their debut out as one to take seriously.

That quality, which we can identify as a satisfying nod to the large riffs and unchallenging simplicity of classic rock, is exhibited beautifully on the absorbing first track, 'Half Red, Half Way'. It's two-chord intro travels through multiple effects and guises to usher in the vocals of guitarist Matt Lambert, perhaps a shade more hidden and distorted than in 2008. This fascinating track ends with yet more spellbinding obviousness: a frenzied scale of ascending chords that is repeated. That's all - but it comes across with such urgency that it perfects what is easily their best track to date.

The qualities on show in 'Half Red, Half Way' are what marks them out as a cut above bands with similarly dark and heavy ambitions the Warlocks or Secret Machines, and All The Saints come close to reaching that brilliance on a couple of other occasions here. On others songs though, they feel the need to up the pace and explore a tendency towards what could be referred to as a polished sort of punk (and even then they can't resist the odd emotive guitar phrase). This is not All The Saints at their best. They are at their most impressive when they allow their songs to be slow-moving, rhythmic monoliths. 'PolyDaughters' is a good example of this restraint, as it is also of their hypnotic tendency to spin out passages of merely vocals and drums. 'Host' is also a standout in this way.

But tracks like 'Alteration' and 'Now Boy' rather hinder proceedings and serve as a distraction to the slow-building momentum this album gathers as it wears on. By the time we get to the title track, mind you, the tension is released in a quite breathtakingly soulful way, again with slowness and sparseness to the fore. True, it's all a formula All The Saints have preferred in the past, but in Intro To Fractions' passion (and not a little anger) they have pretty much transcended any gripes one might have over the fact they are largely the same band as three years ago.

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