Simon Grainger. There’s no reference I can point at and say “oh, he sounds like ….”. If you had a big room and put in it Giorgio Moroder, the original Human League line-up, Vince Clarke, Dieter and Boris from Yello … wait, do you see the problem I have? I’ve listened to these EPs a number of times already, and I don’t know where to start. It would be all-too-easy to say, “oh he sounds like The Human League”. But that would be wrong. There’s a heck of a lot more to it than narrowing down the obvious influences (although I do hear The League in tracks like ‘Vintage’).
Let me tell you what I think. Which is the whole point of a review, isn’t it? Why the hell did I say that? Anyhow.
Silent Universe EP
- Cheaper Than a Taxi Home (3:42)
- Trainsurfing (3:25)
- Summersend (Saint Etienne Short Mix) (4:09)
- Flying Solo (4:12)
- Be Forever (4:21)
- Last Shop Standing (1:24)
- Vintage (Jagz Kooner Remix) (Extended) (9:03)
Yes. That’s says ‘Saint Etienne‘. When you’ve got the likes of them remixing your stuff, you can’t be doing too bad. ‘Cheaper Than a Taxi Home’ kicks us off with its bass intro, Presets-like effected vocal and electric synth chords. That bass reminds me of something but I can’t put my finger on it. That’s probably a good thing, but I know it’s going to annoy me for days. And it goes against everything I said earlier. The vocals are done very well. The artwork on the EP does remind me of Aphex Twin’s ‘Selected Ambient Works Volume II’, though. Minimal circular images of blurred things. Like it. But I digress.
Trainsurfing has a great vocal and an almost-Casio-CZ-ish string sound. You’d be almost forgiven for thinking the track was called ‘Silent Universe’, such is the use of the phrase within the lyrics. Love the shimmering synth sound in the background. You find yourself listening to it at the same time as listening to the words – a feat you can’t always do with other songs. A dreamy, almost ethereal sound. Song ends (all too quickly for my liking) with a fading metallic sound. Like a train, probably!
Summersend. Quite possibly a love song, likening the end of a relationship to the end of summer. Very good moving bass/drum combo, and another exceptional vocal. Saint Etienne (the best thing to come out of Croydon since Peep Show) have done a lovely job of this ‘Remix Edit’ (don’t panic, there’s a remix twice it’s length on the other EP)!
Flying Solo. Punchy drums, Neon Lights-ish spangly, jangly, shimmery sound and half-spoken vocal with an Eighties lilt, kind of like Black or New Order. This song has a Vangelis feel, I think. (Had a break for torrential rain – couldn’t hear the music). Almost Pet Shop Boys-ish in places. Lovely background to this song. And that vocal.
Be Forever. Proper electro sound – Fad Gadget, Human League, Daniel Miller. Loads of references hitting my ears – Yazoo and The Normal among them, too. Mid-range monster bass sound – Korg MS-series possibly. Yes. Like this one a lot. Lots going on. Effected vocals, that vocal and quiet strings to end. Nice.
Last Shop Standing. Someone nicked the Shep Pettibone cowbell and Chris Lowe vocal. Oh, there’s some KLF in here too – nice White Room sounds. Only 1 minute 24 seconds long, so begs for lots of replays. Which I’m doing again now. Sometimes the shortest tracks say the most. Yes, I like this a lot. Minimal but saying much.
And finally the Extended Mix of Vintage. Nine (count ’em) minutes. Starts with a Front 242 bassline, but probably isn’t an Emulator II. Oh this is good. Sounds like 242‘s ‘No Shuffle‘ at the start and proceeds to what could be a disco anthem with Depeche Mode vocal. Moves along at a fair pelt with a great vocal.
I need to listen to this EP more and more. I’m going to listen to it more and more. The production, compositions, vocal – everything – is A1.
- Trainsurfing in Time and Space (8:18)
- Flying Solo (Fugitive’s ‘Far From Home’ Mix) (6:32)
- Summersend (Saint Etienne Remix) (8:44)
- Flying Solo (Extended Mix) (6:15)
- Trainsurfing (12″ Mix) (5:20)
- Flying Solo (Fugitive’s ‘Dubstramental’ Mix) (6:01)
Six remixes of Silent Universe tracks, on an EP released late in September. You’re gonna want to hear this stuff in a hurry. Fortunately, the interweb throws up many delicious possibilities.
- PreSonus Studio One
- Apple Mac and Mbox
- Roland XP-50
- Roland Sonic Cell
- Novation X Station
- Neve, API, Telefunken mic preamps
- Focusrite 428
- Roland Juno-6
- Beyer Mic
- Avid Pro Tools 8 LE
- Alesis Midiverb, Microverb and Microlimiter
- Audio Logic 2001 digital delay
- Behringer Dualfex enhancer
- Digitech RDS1900 digital delay
- Drawmer 1960 valve compressor
- Drawmer 231 compressor/limiter
- Lexicon Alex multi-effects
- Orban 622 Parametric EQ and 516 de-esser
- Time Machine Dual Gate and Dual Compressor (built from kits)
- Yamaha REV5 reverb
- Yamaha SPX90 multi-effects
- Akai S1000 keyboard sampler
- Assorted acoustic and electric guitars
- Cheetah MS6 synth
- Emu Emax I sampler
- Korg M1R synth
- Korg Rhythm 55 preset drum machine
- Logan String Melody string machine
- Roland R8M drum machine (with Jazz Brush and Electronic cards)
- Roland SH3A monosynth
- Roland TR606 drum machine
- Sequential Circuits Pro One
- Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 with Poly sequencer
- Yamaha TX7 expander