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Finlay Shakespeare
Domestic Economy Kate Hutchison , January 29th, 2019 08:38

The debut album from Bristol musician and synth builder Finlay Shakespeare is a wild and restless triumph

James Murphy might be the first person who comes to mind when you hear the reworked wails of ‘Amsterdam.’ Later, reminisce about Kele Okereke’s trilling exclamations as you listen to ‘Benedict Clayton’, and feel the Byrne-esque dictation surging throughout. Finlay Shakespeare adopts a vocal approach we’ve seen before, but its theatrical severity keeps us interested. He skips out on the brassy spoken word and calm junctures of his predecessors, though, opting for all-out drama. High-pitched yelps and elongated quaking notes vomit from a tight throat and a buzzing bodily erraticism. This vocal style dominates the whole record; and it works, weirdly. It’s rare to hear stomach-wobbling electro meet vibrant art-pop vocals, but it feels good. Shakespeare’s excited, edgy vocals posit a compelling hook, and counteract the industrious complexities of his handmade modular rhythms.

Lead single and LP centrepiece ‘Luleå’ quickly establishes the record’s overriding mood: ardent, flamboyant and dense. It dives straight for an infectious kick-drum beat, which pulsates between acidic accents and a quickfire electro-fuelled melody. ‘Dublin’ takes a sharper, trance-inspired edge similar to Factory Floor’s early days (side note: FF’s Nik Void made this album’s geometric artwork); ‘Heston’ fiddles with spiky acid vibratos. Domestic Economy uses complex dancefloor elements with unwithering confidence. The assured intricacies shouldn’t be a surprise; Shakespeare owns a synth-making business in Bristol.

Melodically, Domestic Economy has a lot going on – it’s the reason behind the album’s irresistible turbulence. Instead of nurturing a single, synth groove, Shakespeare’s work offers layers galore, rapid diversions and depth. But not every track explores electronica quite so ferociously. ‘Perris’ and ‘Pittville’, one third and two thirds of the way through, offer intermittent recoveries. They strip sound back to minimal synth and pained eerie vocal, and punctuate the album’s vigour and rattling-cum-crunchy accents. Shakespeare’s a one-man band – he usually performs alone – and these two tracks hint at intervals during a live show, a chance to assimilate the synthetic drama. It’s a clever structure; Domestic Economy swings between the restrained and the raucous.