Intricate, complex musicianship that makes perfect sense of the band's name
Jaime Gill 2009-07-16
What's in a name? When it comes to music scenes, a great deal. As soon as that fuzzy, FX-thick guitar music of the late 80s was lumpenly dubbed 'shoegaze' by the UK press, its future unfashionability was guaranteed. But in the US, where it was named 'dreampop', it remains an adored cult. Understandably so: dreampop is a beautiful, evocative, lavish phrase, and one that perfectly describes Engineers' second album.
That Engineers are heavily indebted to those original dreampop pioneers - Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3, in particular - is audible throughout Three Fact Fader. But, given how criminally un-mined that rich seam of inspiration is, this is barely a criticism, particularly when the miners are as skilled as Engineers.
Trying to catch music with words is always like trying to lasso jelly, but with music as layered, slippery and fluid as this it's near impossible. At its best, Three Fact Fader is like an ocean: full of half-submerged electronica, warm washes of distorted guitar and sucking rhythmic currents, Simon Phipp's vocals floating hazily on top.
Just listen to the surging opener, Clean Coloured Wire, with its piercingly pretty keyboard motifs, or the languidly epic Helped By Science, borne aloft on stately, elegant guitars. And though there are moments where the music's dreaminess threatens to turn into mere sleepiness, as on the meandering Song For Andy, they are more than offset by moments of sudden, startling beauty, like the stringswept coda that ends Emergency Room.
When the band vary the pace, the results are more mixed. The bustling, heavily electronic closer What Pushed Us Together sounds forced, but the hypnotic, bass-driven Sometimes I Realise and the pummeling-guitared, swooning-vocalled Hang Your Head are dense with the kind of intricate, complex musicianship that makes perfect sense of the band's name.
Three Fact Fader almost didn't emerge at all, following troubles with Engineers' old record label. We can only hope this idiosyncratic, ambitious, gorgeous band have now found a safer home where they can get to work on album number three.