Matt Bartram: Arundel
Drifting Falling

Televise: Sometimes Splendid Confusion
Drifting Falling

Judging by the aural evidence, one imagines Simon Scott (aka Televise) might have spent the months preceding the recording of Sometimes Splendid Confusion re-acquainting himself with The Jesus and the Mary Chain's catalogue. Like much of the Reid brothers' early output, Scott's guitar-centered Televise instrumentals are covered in feedback that's not so thick it conceals the material's melodic core. Static-laden slabs see-saw through “Tropical Mix,” the mix so dense the guitars struggle to penetrate the muffled howl. Jangly folk melodies in “Rain.Dot.Sunshine” bring Scott's sweet side to the fore, despite the ringing layers of noise that drench the song. The album peak arrives with “The Longing,” an epic wherein six-string armies swell into grandiose formation and then settle into an oceanic lull. Throughout its nine-minute duration, Scott weaves multiple layers into a heaving, heavenly mass that's full but not overwhelming. Feedback throb and crackle similarly smother the ethereal sustain that chimes gracefully through “Fish Fish Fish.” Sometimes Splendid Confusion ends anomalously with Praveen's “Always Alone” remix of “Never Alone,” which introduces vocals for the first time and furthermore shifts the stylistic focus to something more psych-folk-oriented in spirit—not a displeasing directional change but a noticeable one nonetheless (at least until the closing minutes where the song tilts back towards the album's predominating guitar-scaping style). Though Scott's follow-up to 2007's Strings and Wires is a succinct thirty-five minutes (last year the one-time Slowdive drummer also established Seavault, a collaborative venture with Isan's Antony Ryan), there's more than enough quality material on hand to sink one's teeth into.

Recorded entirely at home to eight-track, Matt Bartram's first solo album Arundel is classic shoegaze: nine songs featuring beatific guitar choirs buttressed by simple bass and drum patterns coupled with hushed vocals emanating from the cyclone's center. Molten guitars smolder within the sonic mass, creating a cumulative effect that isn't abrasive but instead serenading. Remove the guitar layers and “Leave by Nine,” to cite one example, would be a piano-and-vocals ballad. Elsewhere, breathy vocals rise to the droning surface of turbulent broil in “View of the Downs ” while Bartram simulates a full band in “All I'll Never Find” with drums a powerful ballast for the immense cloudburst that marches across the sky. Two of the album's loveliest settings are the melancholy instrumental “Above,” where pealing guitars cascade gently amidst resonating piano patterns, and “Farewell,” a stirring vocal-based lament. The album's longest piece, the closer “Marwood Hall,” is less song-like in character and instead a meditation of fluttering guitar shadings that shimmer for seven hypnotic minutes. One strains to decipher his songs' lyrics, so buried are they under the enveloping mass, but—let's be honest—lyrics are secondary in this genre; it's the contrast between the delicate singing and the sonic cauldron that's the primary locus of interest. Bartram's no novice, having appeared on a number of releases with his band Air Formation over the past seven years and as a live support for Ulrich Schnauss and Rachel Goswell (among others), and it shows on this well-crafted set.

May 2008