Review: Diagrams – Black Light
Published on March 19th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Former Tunng front man Sam Genders goes solo, enlists help of revolving roster of musicians, comes out with a strong early contender for debut of the year. What’s more, there is so much to love about Black Light that another few months spent in its company could very conceivably land it in our eventual top ten of 2012; frankly, if there are ten better albums this year then you should probably start preparing now to have your mind thoroughly, exquisitely blown.
Opener “Ghost Lit” gets underway with the line “In the morning light / I was baking up bread in the afterglow / Of a long night spent in your motorcade”, immediately paving the way for all the playfully literate and consummately delivered delights that are to follow. “On a ghost lit fight night” Genders appears to be singing in its chorus, daftly and unexpectedly referencing boxing in a manner befitting of Gruff Rhys; in fact, so luscious and honeyed is Genders’s thick, velvety baritone that he could frequently across the album be mistaken for the Super Furry Animals man, and the luxurious strings, twiddly guitars and crackles of naturally integrated electronics only heighten the temptation to draw this lofty comparison.
After “Ghost List” has crashed satisfyingly to its conclusion like a more colourful version of “Here it Comes” by Doves, the jerky funk of “Tall Buildings” comes charging in like Tom Vek with a more sophisticated knack for pop songwriting, its slow-burning melody and gorgeously understated harmonies annihilating any initial qualms that may have been raised by the often divisive presence of slap bass. This isn’t some tossed-off funk workout; this is modern-day psych-pop that sounds fresh, relevant and intelligent. Suffice it to say, Rocksucker bloody loves it.
“Night All Night” and “Appetite” further evidence Genders’s alchemist’s gift for turning repetitive chorus refrains into quirky singalong gold, “Mills” builds to a fabulous climax, “Antelope” wields a Sufjan Stevens-worthy ‘ba ba ba’ section, and the squelchy, 8-bit-aping electro of the title track plays host to the compellingly confusing exhortations of “I may not know you or I may know you too well / The question lingers in the air, the second swell / If I can glue myself the past and future kill / Ff I can lose myself then lose myself I will”. (At least, that’s what it sounds like he’s singing.)
“Night All Night”
The illustrious roll-call of comparison continues with “Animals”, on which Genders sounds like Damon Albarn and then Cornelius in ‘discordant drone’ mode, before “Peninsula” bursts into splendour like prime Elbow before taking a rather strange turn with of Montreal-levels of invention and ingenuity. The curtain is brought down by the acid house/mellow Neon Neon vibe of “Night All Night (Disco Bloodbath Mix)”.
For all that it recalls other contemporary exponents of great pop songwriting, Diagrams remains tremendously original, full of surprises, lyrically entertaining and catchy as hell. An absolutely dazzling declaration of intent; we can’t wait to see where Diagrams will go next.
Rocksucker says: Eight-and-a-Half Quails out of Ten!