23 February 2014

I Break Horses - Chiaroscuro

So today seems to be the day when I review albums on the strength of their cover alone.  The next one I have picked for today is I Break Horses and their second album 'Chiaroscuro'.  This follows their first release 'Hearts' and was released in early 2014.  Following a brief check on the internet it is plan to see that they are getting a little bit of publicity at the moment, but it is something that would have passed me by if I had not seen the cover which looks like a bizarre science snowflake.  So I go into this blind as seems to be the case these days and find out if the cover is the best thing about this album, or if the music is equal (or better) than the cover.

Starting with a slow pulse and piano to create a moody landscape, "You Burn" opens the album with a slow build and dropping and removing of keyboard pieces that will have a lot of people either hypnotised or reaching for the stop button within the first few moments.  There is lots going on here, but it is all so empty at the same time; it feels like a slowed down version of Imogen Heap and her first project Frou Frou.  Next is "Faith" which bring to mind 90's rave culture but without the need to make everyone free to feel good.  The band may use keyboards more, but there is a shoegazing soul at the heart of this band and part of that is in conflict with the sound as well.  "Ascension" is another piece that feels conflicted or at the very least played with the wrong sounds.  If you took the notes and played it out on violins or piano I can imagine that it would work incredibly well, but the keyboard sounds used jar the song.

"Denial" is an improvement with its late 80's Depeche Mode appeal, it does not use the high pitched drone that is the bands' poison of choice.  At least not all the time, as they still use it liberally on this tune as well; but it is not as much in forefront as on other moments in the album. "Breceuse" is a song I really should like, it has that moody, minimal feeling that is one of my usual calling cards, but this tune is not holding any interest at all.  It actually sounds like a track that was kept of the Fever Ray album back in 2009 and is about 8 years too late to the minimalist pop scene of the early 2000's.  Then comes "Medicine Brush" which starts off with the sound of a computer being turned on after 20 years of poor service and goes on for seven plus minutes or forever - it does not make much difference at this point.

"Disclosure" is next and it is an improvement on "Medicine Brush" but nothing could have been much worse.  With a slightly oriental movement which might either by design or happy coincidence, it feels a lot better until they bring back that sodding tone which is the blight of this album.  "Weigh True Words" is a track which starts off poor and but turns it around in the chorus.  It feels a lot more positive and it also has more of an uplifting feel, this is a shame that it is one of the few shinning lights on this album as it might be the breakout song for them.  Ending the album is "Heart To Know" which is another exercise in length and stamina, shoegazing and drone in one electronic lump of cold harrowing despair.

As an album this is just a poor man's attempt to make a shoegazing depressing landscape for the electronica generation when it was already made by Portishead many moons ago with much better results.  Musically it is well played and I am sure that hipsters will eat this up like the diet pills they have to fit into their hipster clothes that are made for drain pipes and twigs.  This is an epiphany of style over substance and will be the back ground to many nights of disappointment and forced media gushing's for those sheep like mortals.  I like many forms of music; this is not one of them.  If it was not for a few of these tracks being happy accidents, this would have gotten a new negative mark and it is proof that even a good cover cannot save everything.

1 out of ten - You really are touching the bottom of the barrel

Top Track - Weigh True Words

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the I Break Horses website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Or if Deezer is what you use, here is a link for you

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