It’s been a long hard road for the Engineers, but five years after their Folly debut was so well received, it’s heartening to see them overcoming record company troubles to return with Three Fact Fader.
This being the Engineers they do so with minimum fuss, as for them it’s all about the music. Even the press release doubts their existence as a band, describing them more suitably as constructors of sound. That they’re coming back now seems all the more pertinent, given how much column inches and disc space is being given over to shoegaze and its ilk.
This is, of course, much more than a retreading of old ground, and the trio deserve credit for fashioning an album long in the making to something so coherent. Much of the musical inspiration comes from a European tour four years ago, where the band found themselves listening to a lot of Neu!, Sonic Youth and Breeders. And for three self-confessed engineers this record is hardly the stuff of machines and processes, as singer Simon Phipps imbues his songs with plenty of emotion.
Song For Andy is a case in point, a gorgeous slow burning song of parting, with Phipps ending up by singing, “let’s go our separate ways”. Brighter As We Fall also has a real sense of grace and poise, until the jump itself is made – and then the musical scenery rushes by at four times its original speed.
The attention to detail where texture and colour is concerned is the crowning glory with the Engineers. Helped By Science paints a picture with extremely broad brush strokes, while The Fear Has Gone also has a gorgeous rush of sound with which to indulge the widest of surround sound. Opener Clean Coloured Wire sets the scene with music of real stature, the electronics helping it to glint at the edges as Phipps’ meditative vocal takes shape.
It’s worth taking in a quote from bassist Mark Peters about the band’s intentions for the album. “Even though we live in an age where musicians who would like to remain an enigma are becoming scarce,” he says, “I hope that you have fun working out what the hell we’re going on about.” Well this is an album that works long before you even get to the lyrics, so sumptuous is the sound. The lyrics are merely the icing on the cake.