Engine7: Me, But Perfect

Me, But Perfect presents fifty minutes of iridescent and emotive electronic music from Scottish collective Engine7, which Glasgow-based Alan McNeill initiated as a solo project but has since swelled into a sextet (including live video artist). The group uses the conceit of a day's activities in the life of a newborn (and all the familial challenges that that entails) as the conceptual springboard for its debut album (each song title even specifies a time), and consequently the material cuts a wide stylistic swathe during its eleven pieces, with everything from epic fury to beatific calm experienced during the day's journey.

The day's best moment is, in fact, the very first one, “Sunrise, Catalonia (7:14 am),” which opens the album with a bright and bubbly swell of mallet-like patterns, Sigur Rós hums, and lightly skittering breakbeats—a promising, even glorious start to the dawning day. Immediately thereafter, the title track slows the pace for a deep plunge into string-drenched melancholia. Contrasts of mood continue in the tracks that follow: fulminating breaks and staccato synth blaze charge through the predictably agitated “Tempertantrum (11.36 am)”; the becalmed ambiance of “Path of Least Resistance (12:42 pm),” on the other hand, suggests that the child has consented to its afternoon nap after all—though, unfortunately, a nightmare ensues, the dark and brooding tone of “Nichts (2:46 pm)” is any indication. The gentle electro-IDM flow that courses through “A Conversation (4.21 pm)” and “Hive Mind (7:21 pm)” hints that the child's energy level is gradually depleting, and sure enough a mobile's tinkling appears to lull the infant to sleep in the sweet coda “Goodnight, I Love You (8:07 pm).” Aside from Engine7's accomplished execution of its material, Me, But Perfect stands out even more for the balance the band brings to pristine arrangements that manage to be full-bodied but not at the expense of clarity.

July 2008