Urban Myth Club – Open Up

Urban Myth Club Open Up

This duo are made up of electronica artist Mark Desvaux and producer Ian Sanderson, collaborating for the most part via e-mailed stems.  Following on from their debut Helium it has taken over three years for their sophomore effort to reach the pressing plant, the 13 (plus one hidden) tracks here allegedly whittled down from 96 efforts.

Opening track Wake Up is a tentative ambient affair with snatches of echoey dialogue burbling in and out a la Leftfield in a minimalist mood, it’s a somewhat uninspiring start to the record, it’s laidback and dreamy but drifts into the background all too quickly.  Surrender on the other hand benefits from MizAgata’s vocal which has a certain Emiliana Torrini flavour, sitting well with the processed beats like an early Bjork track.  With a similarly laidback groove Don’t Need To Say It feels like a replay of the second track, albeit the vocodered vocals from Jenni Stanley are distancing and rub up against the downtempo atmospherics.

There’s a nice jazzy drum loop opening Everything’s All Right, but the oscillating synths that quickly creep up on it feel dated and sleepy before it lurches into skittering drum-n-bass circa Middle of Nowhere-era Orbital, except heavier on the sound samples.

The problems with the record are highlighted by Coming Home, it’s got a nice soft piano line, bubbling synths and Frida Parr vocal is sweet and wide-eyed.  But it all sounds like something William Orbit would have put out in the early days of this century, it’s got the trademark production marks that punctuated All SaintsPure Shores and made Orbit a hot-property for a few years.  Even when Urban Myth Club are going for some vocal-heavy they still retain a more avant garde Brian Eno feel, keeping their beats downtempo, but there’s a cold feel to their soundscapes that doesn’t pull the listener into their world as much as they would probably hope.

We Have Landed begins with a nice retro sci-fi sound and creepy acoustic guitar, MizAgata’s efforts nudging things in more of a Portishead direction as she annunicates and draws out syllables with the spooky drawl of Beth Gibbons.  It builds towards a rousing conclusion with Marc Layton-Bennett’s drumming crashing dramatically over frantically rattled guitars.  It forms a nice contrast to the retro synth of Area 51, sounding like the soundtrack to a 1970’s science show its combination of squelchy atmospherics and a clipped, sharp beat is a shot in the arm for the record.

Friday Night is an otherwise reasonably insipid collection of daffy percussion scattered with wry sound samples a la Coldcut or The Avalanches, but whereas a track like PropellerheadsVelvet Pants would use its samples to lend energy to the instrumentation here the two elements sit uneasily together, feeling like a sketch or an experiment that was never finessed.

The final track that MizAgata contributes to is Fragile which sounds exactly like a Euro-Pop remix of Debut-era Bjork to the extent that you might as well stop the CD and put Bjork on instead.  You Are Here is a wandering New Age stroll through various synthy soundscapes, whilst penultimate track The Ocean Road sticks to a similar format but with better drums before veering off into a twitchy bleepy aside that gradually becomes a robotic strut, it has a certain swagger but never really goes anywhere with it.  Closing track So Far Away is a short, saccharine combination of synths and nimbly played guitar that feels like the final musical sting to a gritty sci-fi movie set in Mexico.

There’s a lack of energy to this record that is unfortunately infectious, at times they’ve got some good ideas and have some strong collaborators in their fold, but the record, for the most part, outstays its welcome and can become a bit of a hard slog at times.  Beyond that it’s reasonably atmospheric and could comfortably simmer in the background, but that’s not much of a compliment really.


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