With precision timing, as one might expect from a drummer, Alan Emslie returned in late 2019 with his latest offering. As with other recent albums on the now customary release date of 21st December… I’ll let you work it out, although there’s no rush 😉
By inference, AE 50 denotes a milestone in Alan’s life cycle and to mark the occasion he has released this compilation of tracks culled from his solo projects, with the featured albums covering a period from 2002 to 2020. More in-depth reviews of his first four solo albums can be found HERE on TPA, and from 2018 Obnubilate.
Before moving on to the review I think it is worth saying that having listened to Alan Emslie’s music for nigh on twenty years now, there’s one thing I am certain of, and that is there’s no such a thing as a signature AE sound. So with this in mind, the 22 tracks in this collection (eighteen re-imaged and four new tracks) not only backs up this assertion, but also offers a wonderful insight into the creativity of Alan Emslie, bringing together music that is never formulaic and seldom treads the same ground. The opening salvo of tracks confirms this, with the lead track, Can We Go On, released shortly before Christmas, having a dark, but seasonal quality.
Following this we have the aggressive and fiery Misanthropic Myopic Man, with its incendiary drumming and spirited guitar work. Dark Matter retains the excitement of the previous track, although this time around in a more proggy fashion, with its strong synth lead line and, again, some wonderful guitar from John Irvine.
What is evident listening to and revisiting the tracks on AE 50 is the diversity of the material on offer, overall and individually. Charon for instance, which has the ‘tainted’ electronica flavoured, synth-pop of ’80s era Soft Cell, being bludgeoned to death by incisive metallic guitars. In itself rewarding on more than one level 😉 … Bloody marvellous!
Electronica features strongly throughout Alan’s career, perhaps best captured by the four contrasting tunes from Emotive Bay. The rippling and soothing title track, the tranquil, almost Vangelis Watching The Waves, the groove-laden, erm, Groovy Jelly and the percolating beast that is Downforce.
As mentioned AE 50 contains four new tracks. Perhaps harking back to his Emotive Bay era, Daylight, the second new offering, combines World music rhythms and lush string backing before being dissected by Alan’s contrasting melodically gritty lyrics, disturbing the peace.
AND THE WALLS AND THE SNOW FELL DOWN ON YOU
BUT YOU STILL DIDN’T MOVE AWAY
AND THE WALLS OF THE WORLD CAME CRASHING DOWN
BUT YOU STILL STOOD YOUR GROUND AND SAW IT THROUGH
Across the album Alan utilizes this juxtapositioning, lulling you in with hypnotic rhythms and/or lilting backdrops before ripping at your throat with his angsty vocal delivery. Something he does to great effect on Incomplete, from John Lydon to Peter Gabriel and back in a matter of minutes, and all before supper’s ready. Or take a listen to another of the new tracks, the wonderfully titled Losing Sight of the Smaller Picture. A tormented piece that first screams, before disturbing the listener more subtly with chiming percussive ‘piano’ and a sinister nursery rhyme conclusion.
So what else might you find on AE 50?
Quirky and Fun? Quite a few, give Silly Truth a blast, or have a swig or two from the magnificent Duchesse De Bourgogne!
Minimalism? Oh Yes, try the hypnotic Patterns or the compilations epic closer, forged entirely from guitar tones.
Challenging? Absolutely… Heaven forbid progressive music doesn’t challenge the cerebral regions.
Studio Editing? No!
Drums? Maybe 😉 1 2 1234
And there we have it. In truthfulness, I don’t really ‘do’ compilations, but as compilations go, this one is a belter. Firstly it’s NOT merely a collection of well-trodden favourites, more an ‘invitatio ad offerendum’ and as such the tracks reflect the varied output of Alan Emslie over an eighteen-year period. Secondly it offers an opportunity for those who have not yet dabbled, to put this oversight to rights.
Looking ahead. Alan recently announced a new solo album release at the end of 2020 which will “include some orchestral works as well as some crazy drum-heavy tracks”. Also on the horizon is a new release from his ‘darker project’ Plastic Noose. Looking forward to both…
01. Can We Go On (3:35)
02. Misanthropic Myopic Man (5:35)
03. Dark Matter (5:31)
04. Daylight (2:48)
05. Planned Obsolescence (2:47)
06. Incomplete (5:10)
07. Sweet Dreams (4:27)
08. Silly Truth (1:33)
09. Charon (6:35)
10. Losing Sight of the Smaller Picture (5:30)
11. Bitter Boy (Instrumental) (3:32)
12. All the Time (6:27)
13. Dark Triangles (0:59)
14. The Projectionist (8:57)
15. Downforce (4:47)
16. Patterns (5:48)
17. Watching the Waves (5:42)
18. Groovy Jelly (4:40)
19. Duchesse De Bourgogne (7:40)
20. Emotive Bay (3:12)
21. Bitter Boy (3:33)
22. Obnubilate (25:53)
Total Time – 123:00
Alan Emslie – All Instruments
John Irvine – Guitars (tracks 2,3,6,9,11,12 & 21)
Susan Emslie – Main Keyboard Theme (track 1)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 21st December 2019
Alan Emslie – Website