Back in the confused days of 2010 I posted this, practically a love letter to Samuel & The Dragon, who I regarded as being certain to, at the very least, secure a position in the Cabinet for their adventurous, harrowing electronic pop. Today, in 2011 (in case you weren’t counting), I have been forced into a hasty and embarrassing verbal retreat that only Nick Clegg could match.
Who knows what happened, I’ve done enough hypothesising to know that it’s usually not very wise to get involved in that sort of thing; but I can maintain, and this is in no way a defence, that “Diamonds On A Boat” remains a piece of music that is amongst the most perfectly executed eccentric, left-field pop songs that I’ve come across.
I’m still hanging on for vindication, though, because Samuel has traded in his Dragon for bass producer and Hemlock Recordings founder Untold in a new project named Dreadnought. Without wanting to cause offense to the Dragon, Untold’s vessel-rupturing thuds that announce “By The Wire” are making it hard to get any more nostalgic. The menacing, languid vocals of Samuel Chase stake Dreadnought out as a dub-driven side project of The xx, or even an outlet for Thom Yorke’s dubstep obsession. If you think that sounds perfect on paper, wait until it’s in your ears.
It’s a logical progression; Samuel & The Dragon was always slightly leaning towards the influence of bassline and dubstep, and since we last heard from them dubstep has imploded in the UK, with major labels now searching for dubstep-pop crossovers – but it’s something that Samuel’s been doing for years. “By The Wire” just proves that he’s still doing it with more invention and character than his earnest contemporaries. Dreadnought’s incredible ‘Caroline EP’ is out now, exclusively on vinyl – and you can listen to the jaw-dropping title track below.
The premise of it is less than attractive. Dubstep infused ethereal pop. Nothing could sound more like it was simultaneously humping the success of The xx and dubstep in general. When you read it all down in words, anyway, it just sounds unbelievably contrived. Like a balding A&R executive at one of our beloved majors has mind-mapped out what is “cool” today to a room full of excessively earnest interns and spineless phallus massagers and sent them out to assemble the most relevant group possible.
However, one listen to Glass Animals’ “Golden Antlers” and all cynicism will evaporate. Whilst it may be tentatively stepping into corners of music that haven’t been completely explored before, there’s nothing contrived about it. In fact, with dubstep spreading its influence further and further into pop music, it was only a matter of time before bands starting following The xx’s lead and pushing things a little further.
All this endlessly sought after “progression” would be completely worthless were it not for the fact that Glass Animals are writing some of the most touching and affecting songs that I’ve had the pleasure of encountering recently. Striking a mix between the acoustic and digital with the same success that made “xx” so essential, Glass Animals are without a doubt one of the most exciting prospects in new music today. I’m not the only one to think so either, the music industry is understandably interested and These New Puritans’ manager is rightfully keeping a close eye on them. Forget whoever it may be that you’re being told to get excited about right now, bands like Glass Animals occur very rarely and a properly-headphoned listen to “Golden Antlers” should confirm why they deserve the attention that is sure to come.
Pitchfork didn’t exactly criticise the collaboration between Breakage & Burial in their review back at the start of March, but a lukewarm score of 6 and a slightly more negative review concluded that “Vial” was “essentially a paint-by-the-numbers reworking of the style he so successfully concocted with Untrue”. Well, all that springs to mind is that I get the feeling that Burial isn’t going to be apologising to Pitchfork anytime soon for not reinventing music for them every 5 minutes. Pretentious twats. The thing is, there is no denying that “Vial” does bear similarities to “Untrue”, but beyond this the reviewer has entirely ignored the intricacies that separate the two and represent some form of progress.
Anyway, even this is beside the point; it’s hardly like he has returned with a track of chugging power chords and knuckle dragging boorishness. Perhaps the biggest mistake of the entire piece is an ignorance of the fact that this is essentially a Breakage track, with Burial only appearing as a contributor. Ultimately, progress is an additional extra; surplus to requirements, but appreciated, yet when you’re so close to the cutting edge of music as Burial is, it’s even less of a requirement, and the bottom line is that if something’s good, then just fucking say it is. Enough of the grating and probing dissertation-esq evaluation of to what exact degree each note is going to change the world. I couldn’t care less.
I might not feel the need to be exceptionally (and excessively) verbose about the whole situation like Pitchfork clearly does, but I should say that this track has completely taken over my musical world right now – with the result that I just can’t let myself listen to anything else. Crudely put, it strikes as a version of Burial’s “Archangel” that has had that sub bass subtly twisted up, with meandering glass tubes and chemistry paraphernalia spread over the top. Maybe that’s seriously why it’s called “Vial”. Maybe it’s seriously not. The end result is the same; one of the most astounding pieces of music I’ve heard this year, whether it adheres to Pitchfork’s concept of “progress” or not.