||15 October 2010
||Talking Tiger Records
|Electronic, folk, psychedelic
Former trio turned duo, Electric Penguins are back creating cross-pollinated soundscapes with their second album II. The Irish-based act once again set about melding the digital with the traditional whilst trying to disprove the adage that “laptops and guitars” are the bedfellows of the sick and the perverse.
This they most certainly achieve. The fruits of their multi-instrumental labour has a certain modern Wildean Anglo-Irish charm and warmth. There are no monsters created in this experiment.
Upon reading the list of instruments played by both Mark Cummins and Paul Murphy on the album prior to my listening, I became a little wary. Such is the size and variety of the list, it reads like a cross between the “Under-Used Instruments of the World” and the Norwegian phonebook. And often times multi-instrumentalists can be guilty of cluttering up the sound simply because they can.
The album opens with 'Minutes' a slow-burner that eventually develops into a Floyd-like melody. It is an unusual choice for an opening track and a mediocre start. 'Julia Stephens (an introduction)' appears next, and again it burns slowly and with no particular purpose. But just as I was getting worried that we were looking at twelve tracks of aimless ambience, the light breaks through.
'Julia Stephens' a track that stands perfectly on its own two feet without “an introduction” is both mellow and yet infectious. A beautiful high-octave/low-octave harmony anchors the song, allowing the chorus to take off and bring another dimension to the fare. For my money, this is where the album really starts.
And once it has got going it keeps delivering in a delightfully sweet and subtle way. And yes, subtlety is achieved in spite of the Lesser Spotted Stylophone and “Whirly Whips” listed among the many instruments!
'Highgate Hill' imparts some ramblers’ knowledge of London before catching your ear with a wonderfully Beatlesy chorus that uses just the right amount of vocoder effect on the voice to make it even catchier.
'Always, Always' is perhaps the vocal triumph of the record, where, stripped down largely to piano and voice, its simple and melodic lines fall through one another in a beautifully heartfelt manner.
There are more up-tempo tracks in this mixed bag of eltro-folk playfullness too. The most direct of which is probably, the snappily titled, 'Airships Fly Over Beaches With Godetias' which morphs from a poppy opening into a very pleasing groove by the end.
Although there are some unnecessary moments of forty musical winks being taken on this album, when it wakes up and stays awake II is a fine piece of work, mixing genres and melodies with clear purpose and intelligent sensibility.
Lap it up.
- D. Egan