Appliance’s second album, inspired by the old eastern bloc countries rather than conventional western electronic music, moves boldly ever further away from the band’s initial guitar-based set-up and into the world of synths, drum machines and samplers. The resulting melee is a curious but rewarding mix of bleeps, bloops, weeees and woooos, with James Brooks’ hypnotic vocals providing something to listen to whilst tapping your restless toes to the beat. Sounding a lot like Jason from Spiritualized on a good day, Brooks’ vocal style mingles well with musical arrangements familiar to fans of early nineties electronic bands, especially Timeshard and Aphex Twin. Imperial Metric and the band that Appliance have become are both intriguing offerings.
Amongst this album’s many pleasing features one finds Map Of The Territory, a track that starts with something sounding like Tom and Jerry being angle grinded in reverse time, before opening up into a beats-driven melancholia, while Comrades [In A Moscow Hotel] dispenses with vocals and opts instead for atmospherics laid over a heartbeat rhythm; think Jean-Michel Jarre‘s Rendezvous played by The Specials and you’re half way there. Then there’s H20, sounding like Kraftwerk circa Radioactivity and having just recently acquired dustbin lids to bang… A Gentle Cycle Revolution would be at home on an early Pulp album – it plays like a slowed down Styloroc Nites Of Suburbia.
While drum machines, synths and samplers make up the majority of the instrumentation on Imperial Metric, a supplementary dose of bass, guitar (heavily laden with effects), deep vocals and live drums ensures that we don’t forget Appliance’s roots. With all the experimentation going on here it is easy to overlook the fact that almost all of the songs are rooted in tunes rather than effects; and it is no mean feat to take a tune and deconstruct it to this stage.
The tunes and comcepts here are enough to make the album of interest to remixers, while fans of Stereolab, Ladytron and Depeche Mode‘s more electronic moments will also find something to cheer about. Overall, an accomplished album from a band with some fine ideas about the future of music.