Variety Lights – Silent Too Long (EP Review)

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David Baker, the original singer for Mercury Rev, and his band Variety Lights prepare to launch their debut album in June. As a little taster they have released EP “Silent Too Long”. This could not be a more apt title as it is Baker’s first musical offering for 18 years. That’s right EIGHTEEN. This better be good.

The EP opens with “Silent Too Long”, a track best described as deranged synth-pop. This song rides along on a gritty analogue synth riff which sounds like it could be coming straight out of a Sega Megadrive. This actually works very well with the less-than-perfect vocal to capture an interesting feel. Some of the synth elements however sound remarkably like they just came over the tannoy at Tesco. Also, I don’t know whether it’s an intentional move or just the poor production quality, but the overall sound is very jarring. Despite this, in the midst of all the atonal electronica there is a discernible hook, and the song becomes increasingly enjoyable with more listens.

“Worry” is an 8 minute electro instrumental. As it begins, it is reminiscent of something from Animusic but that sense doesn’t last long – this song is dark and meandering  with schizophrenic instrumentation. Some parts are well done, however other bits sound like the cat walked over the keyboard mid GarageBand session. The piece rests on is an interesting rhythmic idea, but the undeveloped nature of the drums makes it sound a bit juvenile.  This track is just a bit underdone all round. It builds subtly which is good, but with 8 minutes to fill, it really needs more direction.

The EP ends with a remix of “Silent Too Long” by synth veteran Silver Apples’ Simeon Coxe III.  It maintains the atonal, unhinged nature of the original with the use of a mass of analogue synth but it sits a bit more neatly over a drum track which has some interesting, almost African rhythms in parts. This remix has some nice breakdowns which give welcome respite from the general intensity. I’m glad to see this is actually the single because it is better put together and produced than the original. It preserves the experimental sound but renders it more listenable for those who don’t go for concept pieces.

If you’re wondering about the similarities to Mercury Rev, the answer is: there aren’t any apart from the vocal. Overall it feels like this EP, or at least the first two tracks needed a bit more effort, particularly in the production. But perhaps the unrefined, psychedelic sound is something people will enjoy. It will be interesting to see how the fully-fledged album compares but I probably won’t be rushing out to buy it myself.

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