Album Reviews

The British Expeditionary Force – Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu

(Erased Tapes) UK release date: 26 March 2012

With Yourcodenameis:Milo on hiatus guitarist Justin Lockey started The British Expeditionary Force and set about creating Chapter One of what will eventually be (apparently) a trilogy. That first venture was created by the band (the line up completed by Aid Burrows and Justin’s brother James) sending each other song reworkings and ideas via email. It was a somewhat novel approach but such projects can often suffer from spontaneity.

This time around the recording has taken place in a single room, a move which has clearly lent itself to the band sounding a great deal more organic and presumably has allowed for much easier and efficient communication between the members. So although Konstellation Neu retains many of the elements of Chapter One, it is a much more considered and lush affair to its somewhat stripped back lo-fi predecessor.

Justin Lockey claims that this album’s direction is in a more prog-rock vein which is some way to describing the development of the band. While the overall sound has most certainly been bolstered courtesy of layered vocals and sonics, The British Expeditionary Force have at least managed to side step one of Prog’s biggest pitfalls by keeping their compositions succinct and not allowing them to drift off into over elaborate tracts of musical drudgery. Opening with the shortest track on the album, Commotion, the album gets off to a gentle start with a brief introduction of delicate synths and gentle vocal harmonies. It doesn’t get elaborate, and in fact barely registers, like a single wisp of cloud on a sunny day.

When All Of This Is Done picks up from the fading dusk of Commotion with its tinkling keys and stuttering glitchy beats. Rather than fade away, it bursts into life in an explosion of guitars and drums and suddenly the band is no longer basking in summery climes but heading towards the centre of the sun at light speed. Cogs And Chemicals returns the band to electronica territory, hinting at Primal Scream’s Weatherall collaborations by keeping it up tempo and dreamily stoned, which is a neat equilibrium when pulled off this well.

The pace drops for title track, Konstellation Neu as the band build vocal harmonies around a stuttering piano figure. In truth, it is one of the weaker moments of the album and doesn’t really develop into anything as resonant as the tracks that precede it. Where You Go I Will Follow falls into a similar trap unfortunately. This time not because there’s nothing to grab hold of but because as pretty as it is, its attempt at tranced out Balearic ambience just feels a little tired and laboured. Similarly, End Music ticks over quite nicely but never grabs the attention or worms its way under the skin.

Crack In The Clouds however finds the band back on form, its sparse glitchy frame providing Aid Burrows a better base to build his vocals on as an array of electronics swirl around him. The angular mix of the organic and the robotic is about perfect here and they follow it up with the almost Numanesque Strange Aftertaste with its tinkling synths, and haunted vocals. The riotous epiphany in a robo-chapel style conclusion is far and away the best moment on the album.

They finish with Irons In Fires which is far and away the most prog/post-rock moment here purely by dint of its long and winding trawl through hazy ambience. It’s all rather blissful and well executed though and draws a neat veil over an album that occasionally falters, never stumbles and occasionally succeeds in reaching the stars.

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The British Expeditionary Force – Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu