(La Folie Records)
Recorded in partly in Portugal, these tracks reflect a number of factors – a creative compositional run from keys player Nuno Goncalves, mixing by Flood, a guest spot from Sonia Tavares, the wish to make a cohesive album based on a life story concept AND the involvement on the production of ex-Roxy Music man Brian Eno. With Eno I am never quite sure how many conceptual ideas he took from the late David Bowie but his ‘unconventional approach’ is bought by some and The Gift clearly like what he brings to their party. So here we are with the ensemble on a mission to create ten timeless songs…how do they fare?
I Loved It All starts with tinkling piano in a rather solemn vein. The vocal delivery – not timbre ! – reminds me of Scott Walker. At 1:15 a string section arrives to coast over the busy rhythm. This is so reminiscent of the more outre works of Shirley Bassey..then suddenly we are into an electro and spacey passage belying prog leanings but with a slow handclap beat. The orchestra returns and the flow returns. Seems to me these coves are aiming to tussle with the Arcade Fires and Decemberists…
Clinic Hope pounds along like Kraftwerk on amphetamines, the sort of tempo that leaves you breathless. Big Fish attempts a funkier ambience with electronic latinesque percussion, then a wodge of synth takes over. The chord progression evokes New Order and a vocal ensemble intones “sometimes you gotta be a big fish” as a melody attempts to thread through the fat sound. It drops out and returns.The keyboard sound is very cold. Love Without Violins includes Tavares and Eno singing over what sounds like treated violin before a slow, stodgy Kraftwerk beat starts. Brian sounds mannered, he’s no David Byrne. Sonia is more tuneful.
Vitral takes gentle guitar and keys opening into a pleasant pastoral run before a world-weary vocal about Jesus sighs in. It’s rather soothing albeit still chilly; Malifest Commences with full-blooded vocal ensemble, plunging into an urgent Talking Heads jittery tempo. Probably works well in performance. You Will Be Queen is cold and ethereal as an insistent synth figure gives away to a tired vocal. Maybe the best song here and tuneful enough, a touch of Portishead…
Lost And Found is polyrhythmic but the beat doesn’t settle ; Hymn To Her has a loud clock tick as it starts plus mysterious tones, the vocal plaintive rather than driven. Closing track What If…uses acoustic guitars and that space twinkle and again the singing sounds an effort, but this has a cute tune and delicate delivery.
Strange and chilly prog rock in the main, virtually none of the material connected with this listener but if wistful, spacey songs appeal to you then this might be your stop.
(Many thanks to Federica at Impressive PR for help with this review)
The Gift’s new studio album ‘Altar’ will be released by La Folie Records.
It will be available digitally on Friday 7th April and in physical CD and Vinyl formats on Friday 5th May 2017.
The band’s next single ‘Big Fish’ is out on Friday 10th March 2017.
For more information visit the band’s official website here: http://bit.ly/2lNzw5t