Pinemarten - If You Thought There Was Any Doubt
In the late 1970s and early 80s electronic music sounded like the future, it was daring, cutting edge, the triumph of digital over analogue. We weren't far wrong. With the advent of the home computer and tools like pro tunes, in 2011 electronic music is all encompassing, it's everywhere. But little did those early pioneers realise that, 30 years later electronic music would turn out to be so bloody boring. What once sounded dangerous, left field and alternative now sounds safe, unthreatening and establishment. Take as evidence the acclaimed producer and all round electronics genius Pinemarten's new album, If You Thought There Was Any Doubt. It's as safe and unthreatening as they come. It's blander than a cardboard rice cake and unfortunately slightly less appealing.
The album opens with 'Change Your Mind' a track that is firmly entrenched in the Dulux colour chart magnolia section. It's an amnesia inducing song that floats by without leaving any trace. I've listened to it at least ten times and I truly cannot recall what it sounded like. I just wish that 'Breathe', the albums nadir, was equally amnesia inducing. It initially sounds like interference on the phone network before turning into wallpaper music last heard on the theme tune to a poor brat pack movie from the mid 80s. If the American military are looking for something to replace waterboarding then simply put this on a loop and you'll have prisoners spilling the beans faster than you can say this album's a huge disappointment.
It's not all insufferable or instantly forgettable, the ambient, atmospherics of the first minute or so of 'On The Line' lead into a beautiful electronic ballad which sounds like a New Order b-side. Pinemarten does his best to spoil it by layering a tonne of unnecessary synth flourishes but the strength of the song breaks through the electronic smog. The instrumental final track 'Home Again' is stripped back a little and allowed to breathe making it easily the best track on the album. If only the rest of the album showed 'Home Again's' restraint.
If You Thought There Was Any Doubt is a real a curates egg of an album. When it's good it's not bad but, when it's bad it's horrid. Pinemarten is a better songwriter than this album demonstrates it's just that most of the nine songs would benefit from a little more restraint and a lot more simplification. I'd love to hear a naked version of the album where the songs are allowed to breathe without being drowned in a tidal wave of synths and electronic flim flam. That would be a good album to listen to, as it stands it just about scrapes adequate.
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