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One More Grain
Modern Music Daniel Hignell , July 17th, 2023 08:27

For all its quirkiness, the latest from One More Grain is best when it restrains itself (just a little bit), finds Daniel Hignell

A fever-dream slice of very British avant-rock from the recently reinvigorated One More Grain, Modern Music is a scattered, joyous affair of weirdo tropes and colloquial, stern monologues. Strange in the same way lots of similar things are strange, the album throws up the classic ‘British man has a bit of a rant’ against a backdrop of jousting brass and off-kilter percussion, short trills of a clarinet, or other wind instrument adding colour if not structure. It’s a fairly beguiling sound world, borrowing from the songbook of madness, with the jazz-lite instrumentation sitting in contrast to the plethora of samples and drum machines that float around beside them.

Despite playing up its capacity for the confusing and the hectic, Modern Music is at its best when it leans into its more restrained, abstract tendencies – as with the restrained bliss of ‘Providence’. Ambient washes of the winds and brass mingle with sounds that might be a dusty field recording, or just as easily an artefact of some underplayed extended technique. There’s a certain Badalamenti quality to these moments, a vague spooky tonality that sounds a little off without being entirely sure why.

For all their performative oddness, One More Grain have an affinity for rather cheesy samples, torn from a similar sound world as the likes of the KLF, but perhaps without as much obvious irony. There’s no shortage of slightly silly – if entirely incongruous – hits and chops, and there’s something pleasingly jarring about hearing a drum and bass loop that could easily be found on a Salt-N-Pepa album providing the accompaniment to a monologue about trees, whilst a reverb-drenched voice warbles formlessly in the background.

To a certain extent, Modern Music is an album that asks its listener to buy into the particular brand of quirk that its purveyors are peddling. At times wilfully over the top, it nonetheless flirts with pretentiousness, its lyrics imploring you to “please the Acadian”, or intoning how “the wardens are trying to record the sky”. Yet all this is framed by the dull English lilt of the voice, distorted and multi-tracked to oblivion. Throw in some half-hearted sax riffs that sound uncomfortably like football chants (and contain all of the melodic complexity of one), and the result is something charmingly disjointed, annoying in a rather deliberate fashion.