Less a traditional album, more an artefact from outer space.
Hari Ashurst 2012-09-06
There are countless ways to listen to an album today: an MP3 button, 12" vinyl, streaming software, YouTube, cassette. Whichever format you chose though – unless you're an audiophile – the result is roughly the same. Not so with Bronze, a new format conceived by Gwilym Gold (and producer Lexxx) for the release of his record Tender Metal.
Bronze ensures that Tender Metal never plays the same way twice. The format comes as an app; an enveloping black screen complete with strange artwork and alien symbols. On first play a cynical person might find it too tempting to hit the play button again and again, hunting symmetry or difference. Tying to beat the system yields impressive results though. Take this three-click sample of title track Tender Metal for example: one play sculpted a glassy, haunting backdrop for Gold's simple tune, another was noisy and bombastic, while a third rendered the tune minimal and restrained.
Occasionally a song will hit just the right balance and become a thrilling synergy of sounds. Any excitement, however, is tempered by the knowledge that each good moment is unrepeatable, passing like flecks of dust, fleeting and disembodied. There's a distinct sadness to that feeling and a certain amount of frustration, too. But in an age where a person can half-recognise an old song and Shazam it for the answer, Bronze is at least pleasing in its celebration of the right now.
Gold's vocals are the most static landmarks in each of these seven songs. On Habit (Of a Lifetime) he finds a meditative repeating line and allows it to revolve around the track's more elemental textures. For the Bronze format to truly work it needs this kind of anchoring weight to it. Both here and elsewhere Gold does just enough to tether what could be an obtuse idea with too many random elements.
That said, it's difficult to think of this record as anything other than a curiosity. Bronze frees Gold's songs, but limits them too. Tender Metal becomes a demanding album, and one with such set parameters that it's difficult to truly love, no matter the quality (there are plenty of great moments). Ultimately this feels like an artefact from outer space, singular and post-modern, and for that alone the experiment is worth applauding.