Alexis Taylor: Await Barbarians (Domino) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019  

Alexis Taylor

Await Barbarians

Domino

Jun 27, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor's second solo release is a record for sleepless nights, an introspective wandering that shoots off incoherent musings at nobody in particular. It's spacey and big, but delicately intimate. Everything sounds so close, while leaving room to breathe.

Alexis Taylor knows how to write songs, but we already knew about his penchant for melodic structure from a half-dozen Hot Chip records. What we really get to know from his solo work is his remarkable craftsmanship. He takes songsreally pretty songs, by the wayand builds them into very delicate tracks.

The instrumentation is inspired, but perhaps more importantly for this record, it's noticeable: not just synths and guitars, but all the quirky inflections you hear from really playing something. On "New Hours" we can hear a breath blowing through plastic, like a synth woodwind. It's such a great sound, filling in an otherwise conventional arrangement, and the same song ends with crumples of paper, or perhaps a match being pulled out of a book. These aren't just nonsense noises thrown in as an experiment, but necessary pieces of the sonic framework that complement the rich conventional instruments.

"Without a Crutch" is a sugar sweet Dylan-esque ballad that lightens the mood with earnest heartbreak, and "Immune System" opens up a cavernous soundscape with ping-ponging cymbal brushes leading into an intricate mix of electronic and analog sounds. "Elvis Has Left the Building," the album's first single, follows a minimalist beat to a tune as nostalgic as its title is familiar, but it never sinks into parody.

If there's one thing missing from Await Barbarians, it's cohesiveness. There's nothing that brings these songs together as an album, aside from their sleepy mood. Yet the bouncing rhythm of the melodies feels consistent, so maybe it's unfair to say it suffers from being too scattered. Alexis Taylor has made an album that fits nicely into a world of dreamy pop, and most of all he made it sound authentic. There's nothing here that isn't refreshingly gorgeous. (www.hotchip.co.uk)

Author rating: 7/10

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