14 November 2013

UNKLE - War Stories

If there's one person you really would want to meet in your life, it would have to be Sigmund Freud. I'm sure there's millions of people around the world trying to interpret some of the most outlandish and inexplicable dreams that they have had and I had a couple the other week in succession. The first one, I'm sure many of you can relate to, was when I dreamt I overslept, woke up with a start and managed to get dressed quickly only to find that a) I woke up in real life and b) realised it was my day off work. Cue a facepalm from me. The other dream was when I was having insomnia, then just as I was dozing off, somebody burst into my room screaming that they found a cure for getting me to sleep.

So, now I'll let me explain why I'm blabbering on about grabbing some zeds. Many tunes can send you off well, but Tired Of Sleeping, which appropriately is the final track of this album has got to be one of the most ideal. It's atmospheric, haunting and marries acoustic and John Squire-ish strings to some stripped down percussion along with some airy and flowing synths. More of War Stories later, but now to the act itself. UNKLE is essentially a pair of producers that's been pounding the audiobeat since the 1990s, alternating their roles between remixing for other artists, to forging their own trip hop overtones with alternative rock traits. The artists they've worked with, and there are just far too many to list in full, comprise of members of Radiohead, Metallica, Beastie Boys, The Stone Roses, and their five albums released so far make for an impressive musical Who's Who. In this 2007 outing, we're treated to some noble talent in Ian Astbury (Cult), Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age) and 3D (Massive Attack).

London born James Lavelle is the instrumentalist, producer, songwriter and occasional label boss. Basically, he's the brains behind the whole project, but he's not noted for his singing, and makes a first attempt at it in Hold My Hand. Not a bad effort even if his inspirations smack of Ian Brown and guess what, The Roses frontman's also made an appearance in a previous UNKLE album. In fact there's a few other tracks that appear to have been lifted straight from the Madchester scene, like Keys To The Kingdom. Its opening riff threatens to break out into a Dr Who theme, with ex-Sunhouse (a brief Nottingham band that wasn't around for long) and folk singer Gavin Clark the guest on the song applying his simpleton and whimsical approach. His other contribution in Broken is stronger and more assured but shows a hint of fragility and possibly insecurity.

Josh Homme ditches some of the stoner hallmarks for his contribution in See How It Feels (Trouble In Paradise), which sounds like a Daft Punk beat with a few electronic layers thrown in, but while he doesn't feel uncomfortable on new ground, I'm not wholly enamoured by it, maybe a filler at best. Jim Morrison sound-a-like Ian Astbury features on Burn My Shadow and When Things Explode, and his Doors-type tones does ride together well with the former track, with some trippy beats and Mancunian guitars, curiously the bridge has Pink Floyd type harmonies. However, When Things Explode, the strings and acoustic feels more Verve-y while Astbury seems to have been listening to Lou Reed for some choral changes.

Leila Moss from The Duke Spirit takes to the stage in Mayday with catchy hooks similar to Muse's Uprising with her anglicised Debbie Harry sounding loops taking charge here, but it's 3D's hushed voice that for me steals the show with the beautiful and piano accompanying Twilight. The fade-in/fade-out harmonies really enrich the track while the beats hark back to the early 1980s of synthpop, it's easy going without going too deep into the ground or becoming too trancey.

As most of the bloggists on ATTIWLTMOWOS agree, there seems to be too many producers trying to cut a simple pop record for one artist. This could easily be the reversal - too many artists trying to cut a record for one producer, but thankfully, there's a continuous theme running through War Stories alternating between acoustic, electronica, sometimes shoegazing and stoner rock. James Lavelle has kept faith with the structure of the album in one, rigid piece. Some things are just too good to slip you by in a dream.

8 out of ten. Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart.

Click on this link for the Unkle Official Website
Listen to War Stories here on Deezer

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