Tuesday, 24 January 2012

reviews: mull historical society, chris devotion and the expectations, hyperpotamus

Mull Historical Society - City Awakenings

Mull Historical Society - City Awakenings (***)

After two albums under his own name, Colin MacIntyre has readopted his former moniker for the first time in eight years. While the intervening releases only nominally diverted from the established MHS sound, his latest fizzes with such optimism that the name switch makes sense; City Awakenings exaggerates past strengths tenfold.

As a result, it risks overdosing on positive energy – Must You Get Low, for one, resembles a Patrick Wolf Glee-guest spot, and the degree to which you find that analogy amazing/horrifying may determine your tolerance levels for this charming but relentless collection of big choruses and (mostly) high spirits.

Constant nods to the thrills of city-living add to the air of musical-theatre (half the tracks contain a reference in title or opening line alone, which, coupled with the persistently upbeat tone, suggests On The Town- levels of urban-enthusiasm), but Macintyre’s sharp ear for a winning hook keeps things appealing throughout.

Out Now

Chris Devotion and the Expectations – Amalgamation

Chris Devotion and the Expectations - Amalgamation and Capital (****)

Encounter Amalgamation & Capital anonymously and you might presume it a greatest hits rather than a debut, its no-nonsense new-wave suggesting a lost genre classic from a contemporary of Elvis Costello – a Jags, or an Any Trouble perhaps, with extra punk crunch in some of its more straight-up rock n roll numbers. It’s packed to the gills with big hooks and boundless charm, Devotion’s song-writing so expertly lean that the occasional non-starter is easily overlooked.

Highlights include I Don’t Need You Anymore, an old-fashioned pop hit in all but sales and timing; Blister’s robust yet radio-friendly riffing; and closer Better than This, sounding positively epic after so much bubblegum. Needless to say, Devotion and his Expectations are not exactly reinventing the wheel, but nor are they attempting to; instead, they’ve elected to rev it into a rubber-shredding spin, sparks flying from every boldly-struck power chord and cheeky lyrical bon mot.

Out 30th January

Hyperpotamus - Delta

Hyperpotamus - Delta (**)

Hyperpotamus’s talents are unquestionable – search for video evidence of his looping skills, and marvel as he builds complex tracks from no more than a microphone, a pedal board, and his own voice. This is as refined as the ‘one-man band’ concept gets, with not only every idea emanating from its creator, but every single sound stemming from his adaptable larynx.

When visible, Hyperpotamus shares with all loop-pedal practitioners that curious alchemy of witnessing the singular made plural – the thrilling orchestration of inconspicuous vocal components into incongruously busy compositions. But on record, when this layering process is cloaked, only the final product matters – and it is here that Hyperpotamus’s skills lose their fascination. Unfortunately, when divorced from their notable assembly method, most of these tracks just aren’t particularly compelling, leaving novelty their only sturdy point of recommendation. As a performer, Hyperpotamus raises eyebrows; as a songwriter, he lifts shoulders into shrugs.

Out Now

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