wed 23/07/2014

CD: Diagrams – Black Light | New music reviews, news & interviews

CD: Diagrams – Black Light

Electro experimentalist comes up with some new angles

Diagrams: pop collides with the downright weird to wondrous effect

The term "folktronica" always makes me think of that horror-porn abomination The Human Centipede. Two entities being joined together in a way that they should never be joined together. Finger-in-your-ear choral harmonies and groovy basslines? It should not work but it often does. Audacious outfit Tunng regularly cocked a snook at received boundaries and pulled off this unholy alliance with flying colours, so perhaps it is no surprise that frontman/founder Sam Genders repeats the trick with the debut release of his latest outfit, Diagrams. And then some.

Black Light is the kind of album that hooks you with the first listen and then gets better and better the more time you spend with it. Maybe less folk than in the past, but still plenty of tronica. From the angular Wire/Gang of Four-style riffs of "Appetite" to the spectral atmospherics of "Ghost Lit" this is music that feels both scintillatingly boxfresh and in debt to left-field dance-rock's brightest, most inspiring sparks. Genders bends and twists genres to spectacular effect. He even gets away with some noodling prog-rock, occasionally evoking the dreaded flamingo-legged Jethro Tull, while elsewhere the spirit of the Beta Band’s anything-goes alt-hippy philosophy looms large.

The addition of flesh-and-blood instruments, including brass, removes any possibility of this ending up as just another over-programmed bedroom project. There is plenty of heart and humanity here. The crossover electro of Hot Chip’s last album is another touchstone. The mood is celebratory and easy-going and never overpowering. Genders took a break from music to teach in a primary school after leaving Tunng and one cannot imagine him ever losing his temper in class. This is mellow music at its best. "Oh, isn’t this good," Genders whispers softly at one point. I could not have put it better myself. 

Watch Diagrams perform "Tall Buildings"

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