I should first like to start by explaining that a week ago the band’s vocalist Stephen Barnes sent me the download for this album and it has been set to repeat play on my iPod ever since. I wanted to get inside this product and I can certainly say I did that, and before you ask – It’s not driving me mad, quite the contrary. It opens with ‘Cresta‘, which put me in mind of a Pink Floyd number, the way the track is brought to the listener. This opens to a huge vista as the overriding rhythms are brought together and then Stephen’s vocals are offered up, “Falling from the crest of your wave, I see you in you in the dunes…“. For what is their third album proper, it appears they have certainly nailed it and shows that in the 27 years since their last full-length release, Mappamudi, they have not been idle.
From the huge soundstage of ‘Cresta‘, ‘It Sparks‘ follows and is something quite different, almost brought down to earth. It puts in mind the band here performing in a close setting, and although commencing with what sounds like full orchestration, this is soon brought crashing to the ground. Full-on bass-driven rock breaks this initial impression, as lead guitar cuts through any pre-conceived idea that might have been drawn. As we leave this space, next number ‘Schism Algorithm‘ is again something that differs, although funnily enough fitting into where we left off. “I’m the Schism Algorithm. Agitation by design. Supersede your intuition. Organised to change your mind… If I repeat this, repeat this, repeat these lines. I’ll concrete this, concrete this in your hearts and minds.” And it all becomes clear, this is a mantra, that along with the almost hypnotic patterns within the music is something that rings truer today than it ever has. With many being encouraged to “Clap for carers” at 8pm on a Thursday and without a great deal of encouragement needed, many thousands do! It seems that quite unwittingly Thousand Yard Stare have written an album that sits perfectly in the moment.
At this point in the review, it might be worth explaining something about the titling of the album. The Panglossian Momentum is not just a bloated set of words given to a product to suggest a majesty and place. This does come with some considerable substance. Professor Pangloss being a character in the novel Candide by 16th Century French satirist Voltaire & within this text, Pangloss is the source of indoctrination toward our central character Candide. All this might be a little hard to get one’s head around, but Stephen Barnes has done the reading for you, so this album may serve as an introduction, and might bring you a greater understanding of bands like Sheffield’s Cabaret Voltaire. So when it is sung in ‘Spandrels‘, a number that is basically a love song, played to another massive soundscape, that “I’ve been winding these handles. The klaxon it waxes and wanes. These backing sirens. Are breaking the silence. I’m praying for guidance…“, – when you learn that this book, which Stephen read prior to writing this was widely banned because it was thought to contain religious blasphemy – again another penny drops. As this number gently plays out, it’s ‘Sleepsound‘ that is up next and an incredibly precise similarity toward Oxford’s Ride can be heard. A repeated riff is played throughout, which will pound this number into the heads of listeners, making this surely a winner for airplay? Simply an incredibly well-written song, both musically and lyrically, and as this plays out ‘Precious Pressures‘ is offered. A slightly sinister intro meets the ear, where a keyboard loop plays before being layered by bass and eventually vocal “All these precious pressures. I won’t heed the warning. Bring your empty gestures and let me fill them in…” Another delve into Voltaire’s ‘Candide‘, maybe? But overall this is another well-written song, with instrumentation playing perfect partner to the words within the song.
This is a band I have been familiar with for much of their career, but this selection of 8 songs is something quite different to that which have played before, and then I am hit by the line “…Bring your weights and measures and let me drink them in…” and like a glass of hardest liquor, I am overwhelmed. Coupled with the very best rhythms and guitar riff, this album is becoming better and better. The songs ‘Sense The Panacea‘ and ‘A Thousand Yards‘ round off the album. The first as the title would suggest is a look at remedies and cures, which sometimes have quite unexpected results. While ‘A Thousand Yards‘, takes us out where we came in, as we take another look at ‘Candide‘, starting with an assured bassline that is coupled with a grounded drum pattern and obscured rhythm guitar, “…You sympathise with someone. That you don’t really hear. (And you’ve got to get away from here) You synchronise with something. So you’re not really here. (And you’ll never get away from here)…” If it takes 27 years to realise a work like this, then perhaps a few more artists should consider this extreme measure? But really whatever you might have thought about TYS in their infant years, if indeed you knew them at all, then after hearing The Panglossian Momentum, I can wholeheartedly recommend a first, second, third, or even tenth listen. This album is, for now, their finest hour, just showing that when you don’t expect it, something quite brilliant can come along.