"It seems to me that there are no such things as "concept albums" anymore – just "albums" and "collections of songs to be played in any order." "This is vexatious to the spirit." So says Alex Snook, who's certainly done a lot of travelling in his life. He's currently based in Bristol, but had his start in Barcelona, and headed all the way up to Iceland to record the foundations for what would become The Bridge Between Life and Death, an album named for a bridge in Kópavogur which has a nursing home on one side and a nursery on the other. It was always going to be interesting to see how such weighty themes were incorporated into the album, along with Snook's found sounds which he picked up whilst in Iceland, but the fact that this is essentially an instrumental concept album isn't the most impressive thing about it; what's most striking about Snook's new record is that is that it's filled with a whole host of beautiful moments. Its instrumental depth and majestic neo-classical arrangements mean that there's rarely a dull moment throughout.
Spending time in Iceland allowed Snook to collaborate with some of his favourite Icelandic musicians; he's apparently had a fascination with the country that stretches back a while, and was inspired by all the usual suspects in the creation of this album: Björk, Sigur Rós and múm are all referenced over the course of the album, and there are even collaborations with Amiina - who make an appearance on 'The Potter's Garden' - and Sin Fang, whose contribution to closer 'The Gaits' is an especially elegant touch; and when you consider that the title is a play on 'The Gates' - as in, the pearly gates - the track begins to take on an even more celestial dimension. Even so, there's an autumnal atmosphere to much of the material on the album; Snook may opt for an uplifting experience throughout, but there's a certain kind of wistfulness touched upon in opener 'From the Cradle' that never quite seems to go away.
There's an orchestral feel to a lot of the material on the album - for instance, the energetic pizzicato strings on penultimate track 'Tjörnin Side', or the delicate layering of the melody on the Benni Hemm Hemm-featuring 'Thufur Thoroughfare' - and while Snook shies away from any truly upbeat tracks, there's a definite sense of energy present in his new record. The second part of 'The Verge of Winter' is definitely the most up-tempo part of the album, standing out amongst its more reserved counterparts, but Snook seems to understand his own music perfectly, knowing when enough is enough, and it's this economy of delivery (arguably, above everything else) that makes The Bridge Between Life and Death such a fascinating album.