With their last release, Three Fact Fader, Engineers found themselves on the receiving end of serious critical acclaim. Their blend of shoegaze, electronica and psychedelia was a heady mix capable of inspiring blind devotion in many of those who had the good sense to hear it.
Since then, Engineers have had something of a reshuffle, losing a couple of members (Dan Macbean and Andrew Sweeney) along the way. However, the addition of Ulrich Schnauss has allayed any fears that the band might have returned under strength. Indeed, Schnauss’ unveiling has been greeted in some corners with the kind of anticipation usually reserved for the second coming. Certainly he’s got a phenomenal track record in terms of his solo output and remix work, particularly within the shoegaze and electronica genres. As such, he’s a perfect fit for Engineers, as is Daniel Land, who joins on bass. His work, under the guise of Daniel Land And The Modern Painters, was effortlessly beautiful shoegaze – some of it remixed by one Ulrich Schnauss.
With Matthew Linley joining the band as a drummer, it’s fair to say that this is quite a different band from the one that recorded Three Fact Fader. Heavy line up changes usually mean at least a slight change of direction, but In Praise Of More continues down a similar line to that of the band’s previous work.
The title track stands out from the rest of the album as it retains the slightly abrasive guitars that occasionally populated the hazy netherworlds of Three Fact Fader. It’s also far and away the most uptempo song here with electronic beeps battling against guitar fuzz and motorik drum patterns. For a band constantly described as dreampop, In Praise Of More is a song designed to shake the listener from their slumber. It really is a song out of place on an album that explores pop music that can only be described as ghostly and fleeting.
Twenty Paces, for example, is a six minute epic that is almost balletic in its composition. The melodies of Simon Phipps’ entrancing vocals intertwine with haunting keyboards and smooth bass runs so subtle that they’re almost not there. For What It’s Worth looks to My Bloody Valentine for inspiration, immersing its melodies under gentle waves of shimmering electronic swirls and barely strummed acoustic guitar. Whilst it never reaches for the same bombastic levels as Kevin Shields’ band, it certainly shares a similar aesthetic.
Subtober utilises an unrelenting bass figure similar to those that drove the engines of the virtual Dodge Challenger of Primal Scream‘s Vanishing Point. Phipps once again finds himself in apathetic mood, but whilst his voice is initially the main focal point, it’s the guitars that lend grit to the heart of the song. They roar, buzz and scream around him, enabling a multilayered atmosphere to rise and fall.
The main difference to the new look Engineers is that they’re not making immediacy their main concern. There are incredible melodies in all of these songs, but they’re wrapped up in layers of perfectly realised washes of sound. It takes time for them to make themselves apparent (the chorus of Press Rewind might be an exception here) and to fully appreciate the depth of the album. If Three Fact Fader was dreampop, then Engineers were only snoozing. In Praise Of is closer to a coma… albeit an extremely colourful, eventful one.