Reviewed by mikerak (logarhythm)
This album is a prime example of why I believe that Planet Mu is one of the best record labels around. The output is always of fantastic quality, even if I don’t like it all (I don’t want to like everything a label puts out, it means they ain’t experimenting enough). It’s always kept extremely varied, from the fitting, spazzzing madness of Snares and Hellfish at one end of the spectrum and Julian Fane at the other. Special Forces is one of the most sublime additions to the Mu catalogue.
Elements of the album generate a grand tranquil feel with flowing, droning soundscapes and beautiful textured drum patterns. Others rock out in the most blissfully electronic way. All the comparisons to Radiohead’s electronic exploits you will be hearing are well and truly justified, although Julian’s vocals are more akin to those of Birgisson from Sigur Ros (with the slightest twinge of Beth Orton) than those of Thom Yorke. They really threw me on the first few listens, I am not very keen on vocal electronica pieces but since the second listen they have captured me. This album is a great deal stronger than Kid A.
Tracks like ‘Freezing in haunted winter’ grab you and pull you in with gorgeous piano work and rough scene setting drums. You can just imagine yourself lost in snowy woodland. Slowly building textures lift you up and then disappear to reveal a soothing, rumbling, noisy landscape complimented by the mesmerising piano. Gently the beat comes back joined by the vocals and then BANG a sudden rush of euphoric energy that forces an ear to ear grin to erupt on my face every time I hear it. Julian Fane is a fantastic musician managing to orchestrate his pieces in such a way that it provokes physical well being, a feeling of peace and calm without sounding like some dolphin song riddled new age bollocks.
Having said all that Special Forces is not a totally clean-cut affair, there is a lot of roughness and distortion in there woven into the fabric of the tracks. It’s used with panache and subtlety so as not to become the main focal point of what you are listening to; it slots in nicely with the epicness of it all. Rough yet Lush.
Special Forces is an incredible album, which you will still be listening to in 10 years time. There are not that many albums in my electronica collection I think I could say that about. Julian Fane has put together one of the best albums I have heard in a very long while. The release date is set for 06.09.04 but heart breakingly its only going to be available on CD and not God’s own format, although there are plans to release a promo 7”. I may have to shell out the cash to get myself a dubplate cut!
- Eskmo - Let Them Sing
- Ikonika - Smuck
- Geiom & Shortstuff - No Hand Signals
- Starkey - OK Luv
- Raffertie - 7th Dimension
- Ceephax Acid Crew - United Acid Emirates
- Kuedo - Dream Sequence E.P.
- Starkey - Ephemeral Exhibits
- Neil Landstrumm - Lord For £39
- Distance - Repercussions
- Last Step - 1961
- Mrs Jynx - The Standoffish Cat
- Venetian Snares - My Downfall (Original Soundtrack)
- Meat Beat Manifesto - Autoimmune
- iTAL tEK - Cyclical
- Mary Anne Hobbs - Evangeline
- Venetian Snares - Miss Balaton
- Various Production & Virus Syndicate - Apollo/Neva Argue
- Sunken Foal - Fermented Condiments
- Sunken Foal - Fallen Arches
- Venetian Snares - Detrimentalist
- The Gasman - Superlife
- Eero Johannes - Eero Johannes
- Virus Syndicate - Sick Pay