posted on December 30, 2009 18:00
A review of the album 'Sound To Light' by Channel One
Review Snapshot: The intriguing and likeable blend of electronica and shoegazing by this Dublin quartet will attract listeners from all points of the indie compass. It's forceful enough to make a good first impression and subtle enough thereafter to keep you hooked.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
The members of Channel One come from a background of punk and rock bands but together they make a sound that draws on electronica, post-rock and shoegazing. The Dublin-based foursome have already built up a live following and played at SXSW, CMJ and other international festivals. Now, after a couple of singles and EPs since 2005, we have their first album. And it's quite good.
The reference points are easy to identify - My Bloody Valentine, Mogwai, Sigur Ros and M83, amongst others. Layers of hazy guitars contrast with clean electronic beats, and any vocals are performed head-down and mumbling like a shy schoolboy asking out a cheerleader. There are plenty of bands trying for this sort of atmospheric wall-of-sound whatever and most of it is downright boring. How is Channel One's effort any better?
Well, let's work our way up from the album's weakest point. That would be 'Okinawa', whose very title gives it away as pseudo-soundtrack blandness riffing on vague existential angst in some Oriental metropolis. It's unoriginal and uninteresting - Air spent most of 'Pocket Symphony' doing this but with added gloop. (We can damn Channel One with faint praise here: 'Sound To Light' is better than the last three Air albums.)
Happily, this one mis-step serves to emphasise the personality and inventiveness that's abundant throughout the rest of the album. '8/13' and 'Not For The Last Time' are closer to conventional songs and should attract anyone approaching this album from the indie-rock side. More abstract tracks than those two feature distinctive instrumental figures and melodic hooks strong enough to draw in the listener - the echoing piano of 'Taiga', the chorus-like synth riff of opener 'Soubresaut' and the discordant blips and crackles of 'Three Stars' all give colour and identity. The complexity and subtle craft of the arrangements mean that repeat listening is rewarded. And the rising intensity of 'Soubresaut' hints at this band's live power.
All in all, 'Sound To Light' is an impressive debut album that will appeal to a wide spectrum of alternative music fans. No need to zap any further than this channel, then.