The Third Man: Clarion Call
Ai Records

The Third Man's sound may not be as old-school as the Carol Reed film the moniker calls to mind but, on the basis of Clarion Call at least, Toby Leeming nevertheless has an obvious soft spot for the acid-house and rave music of yore. Nothing wrong with that, mind you—especially when the twenty-six-year-old attacks his material with such gusto. Eight tracks at just less than fifty minutes is just about perfect for a release of this kind. One of the release's most distinguishing qualities isn't its heady mix of Detroit techno, acid-house, and electro, nor is it The Third Man's sleek and polished yet hard and relentless style. It's the album's sequencing that stands out as equally noteworthy, as Leeming modulates the move from restraint to aggression and back again with care.

A classic slow-builder, the eight-minute “Hemsby Acid” opens the proceedings understatedly with a restrained beat pattern and silken synths but steadily gains force once a percolating bass line and an insistent burning pulse enter the picture. Four minutes in, hi-hats slice through the beat like a guillotine blade, after which the tune explodes into a storming 303 rave-up. “Synchronise” follows, a tough electro banger with an acidy bass line that seems poised to explode at any moment; Leeming contains the frenzy for a mid-song interlude of vocodered chanting before unleashing the swarming pulse for the ride home. On a surprisingly mellower tip, the lush title track opens its eyes to a melodically pretty intro and a beautiful roaming bass pattern before immersing itself within an equally warm and atmospheric techno bath. A rainy day to the title cut's bright morning, “East Anglian Blues” opts for a slightly downcast and mysterious vibe in its softly jacking techno flow and elegant, dream-like synth motifs, after which “Hex” transports the listener to Berlin 's Hard Wax for an atmospheric dub-techno workout. With “Attacks,” Leeming returns to a harder sound (naturally) where machine beats stomp with the brutal force of a battering ram while gleaming synth flourishes make the assault seem a little less punishing. “Flaccid House” maintains the crushing intensity with an acidy 808-electro attack that's so frenzied it's almost out of control. For the ride home, the electro ballad “Marianus” cools the pace ever so slightly, emphasizing a final time the thoughtfulness behind the album's running order.

October 2008