Infused with modest humour, lyrical tripping and electro-pop, there is definitely some of that “Beef sound”, as Jonnie Common begins his most accessible track, ‘Crumbs’, on this new record, Trapped in Amber – a reference to the collective which is no longer Fence, and his affiliation, perhaps with a little doting.
A puzzle of short tracks, this album does feel a little fragmented, particularly as the effective establishing track ‘Guesty’, is entirely composed of vocals, humbly mocking himself for telling his interest that they had been put on the guest list when it was a free gig. Others include a recording of a voicemail message that asks him not to pick up the hedgehog, interjecting the synthesized electro with surreal, oblique touches of the personal day-to-day. These tracks are somewhat reminiscent of his De-Fence days and the sound of Down The Tiny Steps.
‘Better Man’, a juxtaposition of synth and drums create a sound reminiscent of old Lemon Jelly, but listening to this is like going on a journey with Common; building, enabling his ‘better man,’ and concluding with the distortion of vocals from a non-Western country, with it not being entirely distinct exactly where. Increasing and cascading in tempo, Common culminates an intricate soundscape of synth, distorted vocals and drums, which reaches that intense climax that enables you to feel slightly self-conscious on the underground, that the entire carriage is perturbed or engaging in your listening pleasure.
Fragmented and varying the rest of the tracks that sit on this album keep it interesting, witty lyricism aplenty and a real sense of wordplay. ‘Fractual’, ending discordantly, includes “You’re one in a million but there’s another million somewhere” removing any romantic notion which began the sentiment. ‘Crumbs’, an obvious single-release with a wonderfully lyrical-paced rhythm, poetically describes the wet leaves as being “glued to the glass-plated sky” composing words together that will mean his tracks engage with a more sophisticated literary listener.
Despite the high-brow lyricism, there is, as aforementioned, a real installation of fun in Trapped In Amber , particularly if we consider tracks, ‘ODB’ and ‘Binary 101′. Neither will keep you in static serious music critiquing mode, and may in fact make you look like the overly animated underground-riding eccentric, but sometimes you just have to let those moments wash.
Wit is injected into this album from the offset, with Common’s poetic vocals and tongue-in-cheek lyrics, which also stylise an album that is already rich in musical variation and electronic synth. Personally a better work than his previous Down the Tiny Steps project, and a record, which makes you smile inwardly, feeling part of the in-joke. Let’s have more of that Beef drum sound.