“Oh, my goodness; that’s gorgeous!”
It doesn’t matter what you are doing, music frequently snags our attention to elicit unexpected and often involuntary responses. In a culture which places so much value on ‘disruption’ it is often forgotten that music is perhaps the original as well as the most formidable disruptor of all, enticing responses from us that in turn delight, surprise, arrest, shock, overwhelm – but always resonate.
My ‘gorgeous’ moment of disruption came when, I confess, I really wasn’t paying attention. Such was the alluring pull of the musical seduction casting its spell, it surreptitiously folded its gentle melodic arms around me and affably carried me away on an entrancing tide of pleasing symphonic soundscapes.
I am referring to Blue Sky Volcano, Isotope‘s second track. Rippling arpeggio keys with supporting guitar carry a breathless vocal which delicately dissipates the longer the note is held on the tuneful harmonic breeze. The momentum soars, takes flight, stronger but not intrusive. Synthesiser layers surge, swell and then fade away underneath breezy creative skies. The song, like the moment, passes with a transitory delicacy and finds a fond place in the memory.
Indeed, the spontaneous poignancy and the emotional pull of not just this particular track but of the album as a whole is beautifully organic and mesmerisingly progressive. The shifting of your focus and attention between and across tracks becomes engrossing, almost consuming and to reap the benefits, you simply need to ease back and go with wherever it takes you.
The opening Soundtrack and the Score underscores the diversity of what you will find in this album. The track opens with a driving, pulsating, insistent, rhythm, over which luscious layers of semi growling keyboards dance on the crest of an energetic wave before morphing to become the bedrock against which a soft voice gently floats. A lovely deep grumbling bass line anchors the gravitas and depth whilst contrasting nicely with the airy highs.
Equinox plays with a leading rhythmic bass, restrained but controlled, with a light synthesiser playfully gambolling against a surging keyboard background. The mood continues with the wonderfully unhurried The Sun is Going Down. Continuity gives way to novelty as the atmospheric soundscape ramps up, providing the perfect setting to a laid back and almost languid refrain, oozing tranquillity and serenity.
The pace changes again as Purple Aniseed picks up the thematic urgency of the opening track. It’s heavier but tightly controlled, big chords signalling assertive changes, a thumping beat and much sharper focus accentuating the direction and flow of the music. Invisible Threads changes direction again. A whimsical opening vocal melts into a delightful repeating refrain, an aching guitar interjecting between phrases, leading to a full-blown solo which flowers and blooms as keyboards lift it to a crescendo.
Hello Algorithm has a paired back rawness reminiscent of a Genesis-style We Can’t Dance vibe, sharp, angular, precise chord work combined with sharp lyrical observations giving way to smooth transitioning keyboard layers and a harmonised vocal. The title track, the longest on the album, is a complex slow-burner, twisting and turning, ebbing and flowing, instrumental combinations merrily exploring sounds and vistas in parallel with changing rhythms and their accompanying atmospheres.
Isotope is a supremely accomplished and intelligent recording which cheerfully parades its elegant and majestic charms on a musical canvas filled with skill, sophistication and no small degree of subtlety and nuance. The key to the album’s success is the way in which it grasps and then continues to energise your complete attention. 22 Layers have achieved this in style with confident and consummate ease.
01. Soundtrack and the Score (5:17)
02. Blue Sky Volcano (4:39)
03. Equinox (6:28)
04. The Sun Is Going Down (5:57)
05. Purple Aniseed (5:03)
06. Invisible Threads (5:05)
07. Hello Algorithm (4:42)
08. Travelling Alone (remastered) (5:06)
09. Isotope (8:37)
10. Isotope (radio edit) (4:39)
Total Time – 55:33
Tony Lowe – Music Composition, Instrumentation, Guitars, Keyboards, Drum Programming
Peter Coyle – Lyrics, Vocals
Record Label: Sunn Creative
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 21st May 2021