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Album Review: The World In Air Quotes by The God in Hackney

Album Review: The World In Air Quotes by The God in Hackney

The core members of The God in Hackney are Andy Cooke (guitars, vocals, piano, loops, samples), Dan Fox (guitars, bass, vocals, piano, synths, samples), Ashley Marlowe (drums, synthesizer, noise channels) and Nathaniel Mellors vocals, piano, bass guitar, synths, samples, FX). As a whole, The God in Hackney sound is difficult to pigeon hole and that’s part of its appeal; this band has makes music like few others. 

For this project, the group expanded their line-up to include multi-instrumentalists and composers Eve Essex and Kelly Pratt (Father John Misty, David Byrne/St Vincent). The God in Hackney are from Los Angeles, but the music they make is almost as English as it gets with deep roots in the avant garde and art rock worlds. Foreign culture is often more appealing than one’s own and frequently encourages more thorough investigation, and that at least seems to be the case here.

They are excellent musicians and highly inventive composers with more than an eye on the way the music is shaped. The World in Air Quotes opens with ‘In The Face of a New Science’ which is lyrically the best song on the album, with lines like “No one told us our reasoning was becoming unreasonable” and some beautiful if sombre trumpet playing. Like many pieces on the album it builds both lyrically and musically to a restrained crescendo and them morphs down to an acoustic denouement. The songwriter clearly has a sense of dread but mixes it with subtle humour.

‘Heaven & Black Water’ is the most conventional song on the album, with a 4/4 beat and an 1980s influenced structure. Here the vocal has been given the autotune treatment, possibly in an attempt to broaden its appeal or maybe just for the sake of variety, I suspect that the latter is more likely. The guitar on ‘Bardo!’ could be Andy Summers, the lyrics have something of The Police’s darkest moments about them too but the multiplication of voices and the introduction of caustic saxophone take it to a much heavier place. This piece gets intense and is a test of any system’s timing, with clangy chords, mucho percussion and a mercifully abrupt finale.

‘Interstate 5’ is a standout piece with superb drum playing and kit sound that’s occasionally manipulated but largely straight and true. Its joined by bass before a silent bridge after which the combo are joined by guitar and eventually keyboards. The final quarter could be John Wetton era King Crimson such is the ferocity of the bass sound. The other clear highlight is ‘Broken Pets’ where clean and distorted guitar are contrasted to good effect with a song that comes across like a British urban blues inasmuch as there is nothing in the arrangement to suggest the blues save for the nature of the lyrics. The piece is full of tension that’s produced by a glitchy electronica and brass backing; this threatens to break open at any moment like a vast sinkhole appearing in a cul-de-sac. 

Dark undercurrents circulate around all 11 songs on The World in Air Quotes yet the overall feel is not one of misery. The God in Hackney do their best to sound British and are very convincing yet clearly they don’t have to endure the grimy reality of life in a down at heel if fashionable London suburb, nor the grey skies of winter. ‘A Frozen Western’ is the only song with American influences, primarily these are provided by a B-52s beat over discordant electric guitar, snappy snare drum and tremulous trumpet. It gets pretty chaotic but just about holds together, which makes it all the more rewarding.

The World in Air Quotes is a well-produced album with very appealing sound sculpting that’s achieved by giving the voice and instruments their own distinct acoustic shapes. The way that some tracks are reinforced with deep bass is also very appealing, adding to the sense of layering and giving the sound real depth. Not for the faint of heart but not challenging either The World in Air Quotes should put The God in Hackney on the map, maybe even in Hackney.


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