Not many people list Baudelaire and Timbaland in the same sentence, let alone include them as active musical influences. For ex-Simian Simon Lord, however, they represent two facets of his musical personality, and collide on his first solo record.
Lord has been busy of late, what with a Black Ghosts mix tape and album to wrap up and promote, but this album feels like something more personal, as if the brash dance element of his music has been left out.
For a start his chosen name pays homage to the limited edition synthesizer built by his father in the 1970s, while the album, something of a concept record, includes music by his grandmother Madeline Dring. A composer who found her most distinctive voice in shorter, sometimes classical forms, she took the influence of Claude Debussy on board to good effect – hence, possibly, the Baudelaire connection for her grandson.
Lord uses CD conversions of 78s and reel-to-reel tape recordings to punctuate his own thoughts, which ties in with the approach of his ex-band mates Simian Mobile Disco in keeping analogue real.
Whether it works on musical grounds is another thing entirely. Dring’s impressionistic sound pictures are merged with drum beats, which, though sensitively pared down, are still intrusive. They give the intentionally ambiguous harmonies from oboe and piano an odd rhythmic impetus that doesn’t quite follow, resulting in what feels like a missed opportunity as potentially sublime melodies are spoiled by an off-beat snare.
When the blend works the music is beguiling, as a briefly found radiance of clarinet and guitar confirms. And when Lord opts for bigger beats and a song-based approach, he finds uplifting sentiments to power Everybody and the introductory My Name Is Lord Skywave.
So while a laudible attempt to merge different kinds of music from two generations apart and opposite ends of the century, Lord Skywave feels like an interesting but missed opportunity. It retains the pioneering spirit of Lord’s work with Simian, but winds up with a not entirely coherent whole, seemingly indecisive of the musical direction it should follow.