If you have ever managed to make it down to Truck Festival in Steventon, Oxfordshire then there is every possibility that by the time you’re nursing your hangover on Sunday morning, Keyboard Choir are going some way to make it better. You won’t have missed them, they’re the ones with the ambient electronica and the robots made from tin foil and old cardboard boxes.
For those of you not familiar with Keyboard Choir, they formed when members of The Evenings and Sunnyvale Noise Sub-Element (both Oxford bands) decided to try and create an electronica band that performs in the same way as a conventional rock band. Live, Keyboard Choir are a real spectacle. Cues are introduced by way of a conductor, samples drift in and out of the ether, and then there are those robots who lazily dance around like Castrol GTX was like some kind of cyborg Ketamine.
Although it is quite something to witness visually; can Keyboard Choir translate their live beauty to a plain old boring CD?
At times you would have to say that they lose some of their charm since half the attractions in seeing the Choir live (and it is a Choir) is seeing that the music they create is not simply a bunch of computers babbling away to each other in an endless stream of binary. As a listening experience, if you didn’t know any better this could well be an album created by one guy in his bedroom, rather than a six strong collective.
That aside, there are some truly stunning moments on Mizen Head To Gascanane Sound. Keyboard Choir are obviously fluent in most aspects of electronic music, as the album manages to reference points throughout its short but influential history. There are times when the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop spring to mind (they were responsible for the Dr. Who theme tune), but there are touches of Vangelis and The Chemical Brothers here and there too.
Most notable is In This Situation, Thinking Won’t Help, a track that sits comfortably at the more contemporary end of the spectrum. Its resonant bass lines thunder pleasingly, keyboard lines twist in and out of each other and somehow it amalgamates into something that sounds like the theme from a 1970s American cop show that stars those robots from the Smash adverts.
Liam Ings-Reeves (formerly of Suitable Case For Treatment, currently residing in Mephisto Grande) makes an appearance midway through proceedings sounding not unlike a toothless preacher from the Deep South, who would most likely have HATE tattooed across the knuckles of both hands. His presence adds a disconcertingly inhuman human voice to the track, forcing you to embrace the pulse of the keyboards further still.
Bugs continues the somewhat downbeat mood to the album set down by opening track The Drone of The Hearse, by recalling films like Threads and the fear of nuclear holocaust. It’s a desolate track that punctuates the sound of nuclear winter with the harsh clicking of insect mandibles. As much as we love it, at times we can’t wait for it to end, mainly because after the brief interlude of La Fin De Tout, the album wraps up with the robo-orgasm of Electrical Unity. A tune in which it is possible to get thoroughly lost as vapourous motifs drift by like clouds, or belches as they would no doubt be in the world of Sabres of Paradise.
There are times when the band seems to lose their way a little, but for the most part this is a beautiful and endearing album that proves that when you take away all the visual elements of their live performance, the music is still what makes them truly special.