Rigil: Concertina Heart

Dynamophone's latest comes from Rigil, a prodigious twenty-year-old named Robert Slade who hails from the small village of Wooton in Bedfordshire, England. Think emotive, richly-textured electronic pop of a particularly wistful character sung in a mellifluous and oft-hushed baritone and you're heading in the right direction. Densely-woven fields of keyboards, guitars, and field textures provide rich sonic stimulation while graceful vocal melodies provide the infectious hooks. The gauzy banks of grinding noise and squealing guitars that blanket “Full Circle” can't conceal the gorgeous chorus melody that blossoms at its center. One of the album's most arresting pieces is clearly “Marble” which pairs his breathless lead with a vocal arrangement of polyphonic counterpoint before an epic flood of guitars and keyboard joins in. That it all happens in less than three minutes makes the accomplishment all the more impressive.

On occasion Slade opts for moodscaping in place of conventional song structures. A case in point, “Young Eyes” is a dramatic instrumental of wordless vocal accents, aggressive drum programming, inflamed electronics, and distorted guitar patterns that could pass for a four-minute soundtrack to a war-time battle. Equally ambitious in design, the stately instrumental “Wheatfields” somehow balances gentle intimacy in its keyboard melody and epic atmosphere in the towering banks of guitars and electronics that swell alongside, while the multi-layered set-piece “Colin Made Me” comes across as more disturbing chant than song. Concertina Heart is a little bit reminiscent of Styrofoam in its mingling of instrumentals and melancholy electronic pop but Rigil stakes out a relatively unique spot in the musical firmament with this promising debut outing.

January 2009