Alien Skin’s return in 2019 will bring an album that’s massively unlike anything he’s put out to date. Aside from the electro-pop building blocks and the familiarity of his voice, P.O.P. POP makes for an entirely new journey – marking a fairly substantial change in direction for the experienced artist.
The first thing to strike about this album is how hard the music hits – the opening moments of Take Me To The Theatre explode into life, and the pace and power never fully falls away from here on in. There’s undoubtedly a dawn-of-EDM feel to the tracks – the rhythm and the finish are superb, wonderfully nostalgic for those who knew the club sound of the nineties and perhaps earlier, and yet somehow exciting enough to securely fit in among today’s creative world.
Monochrome follows the opener with more of this techno-drive and a few similar snippets of vocals – only the most precise ideas flicker into view, meanwhile the energy of the music reaches new heights and rains down in a classically energizing fashion.
The artistry of this project offers something that hasn’t quite been captured to this extent in a long time. The sort of album you might stumble upon or hear playing in some small bar or cafe in the centre of town, that you might ask about, that you might take home and revel in, and share with your friends. Alien Skin’s fine balance between entrancing rhythms and fragments of provocative ideas is fascinating and gives the listener a strange sense of privilege; as if this exclusive experience has only been had by the lucky few. Byron Said To Mary is the perfect example of precisely this quality.
Musically the project experiments with sound in a manner that, thankfully, holds no concern whatsoever for the current shape of the industry. The title track in particular drives with heavy and striking audio, all the while still holding close to that inherent, hypnotic essence of rhythm and movement. The lyrics help you gather a better understanding of what the album represents, though the title and knowing his approach to music prior to this do assist initially in painting that picture. The sheer infectiousness of the hook here echos in your mind after listening.
This is the sort of playlist you might turn to either in the dead of the night, for the after party, or as you ponder the outside world and isolate yourself with your own thoughts and plans for the future. For me, isolation works perfectly – the music provides a hint of retro cinematography, letting you feel as if you’re involved in some crucial movie scene. It’s unexpectedly invigorating. Devil In The Detail is a fine example, the river is deep and I cannot swim haunts you a little as it pulses through.
Charles Dickens furthers the suggestive listing and captivates with a spacious soundscape and another beat that feels – as the dawn of the genre intended – perfectly in tune with the rhythm of a dancer’s heart. Aim With The Wrecking Ball follows a similar route but showcases a more distorted, chaotic and busy ambiance – multi-coloured and uplifting. Comforting literal nods to nostalgia float through at war with this desire to move away from them. By now, the short-form lyrical presentation is a clear thread throughout the collection.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel has a great musical vibe, much lighter than other tracks and somewhat unsettling, but it works within the arrangement. Endsong afterwards offers the first moment of calm, of drum-less delicacy – a rather dreamlike space and softness. In what is perhaps a world first, at least to my knowledge, the track’s lyrics simply lay out the names of songs that preceded it – effectively provoking further consideration of all that came to pass.
Isn’t This Cliche brings the album to a heavy and melodic finish – a slightly more classic Alien Skin vocal emerges amidst a thick and powerful soundscape. A stunning song in fact, the fullness of the ambiance works brilliantly as the final moment, and the human voice and melody add a hint of poignant realness and emotion.
It’s a pleasure to know this kind of music can still overwhelm and embrace, and that it’s still being made to such an enjoyable quality; with a relevant air of not so distant history.