Saturday, May 21, 2016

Albany Down - The Outer Reach

The authorities might say that Albany Down stretch the definition of blues a bit.  They’re more hard rock in a classic vein, but with some blues and funk components.  Whatever – they’re an outfit of some promise.
The musicianship is impressive, from Paul Turley on guitar, and the rhythm section of Donna Peters on drums and Billy Dedman on bass, while singer Paul Muir has a soaring, powerful voice.  All of which is put to good use on a variety of gutsy riffs, searing guitar solos, funky rhythms, and anthemic choruses.
Two Pauls for the price of one - Turley and Muir
There’s a definite hint of Thunder in the air, not least on the opener ‘Feeding The Flame’, with its chunky riff and neat harmonies.  The Eastern swirl of the mid-section recalls ‘Empty City’, or perhaps Rainbow in 'Midtown Tunnel Vision' mode, as a prelude to a big finish.  ‘Like A Bullet’ demonstrates a similar sense of dynamics, with its piercing guitar lines and restrained instrumentation.
‘Do You Want Me Now’ features a staccato riff with a hint of funk, some distorted, squealing guitar licks from Turley, and pounding drums from Peters, while Muir goes for a broke on one of several soaring choruses in evidence.
In fact the funk tendencies are in evidence on a number of songs.  On ‘Supersonic Girl’, which may be a bit lightweight but features a couple of nice touches of punctuation from Peters.  There’s also the off-beat rhythm of ‘Revolution’, which closes with Turley delivering a sizzling, wah-wah inflected solo over a riff of steady, climbing chords.  And there’s the tough funk underlay to the verses on ‘The Drop’, which makes use of some neck-snapping hesitations while getting on with business in a pleasingly direct way
Too often though, Muir’s vocals have to compete with an over-heated, dense production.  For a four-piece supposedly made up of just guitar, bass and drums there’s a hell of a lot of keyboards splashed around, along with some bursts of yer actual horns and strings, not to mention a surfeit of harmonies and double-tracked vocals.  As a result there are times when it feels like the different elements don’t have room to breathe.  So a song like ‘Mr Hangman’ has a good Zepp-ish feel, with a twisting guitar riff and twitching rhythm, followed up by some satisfyingly grimy slide, but the chorus feels over-egged.
The dynamics of ‘Like A Bullet’ feel like a blessed relief amid the relentlessness of some arrangements.  By the same token the closing ‘Sing Me To Sleep’ is a little gem – simple, restrained, and effective.  Placing it earlier in the album might have offered a timely breather from the full-on aural assault elsewhere.
Much as a big, fat rocking sound can appeal to me, I’d like to hear Albany Down strip things back a bit – and hopefully in a live setting the essence of their four-piece set-up will see them do just that.

The Outer Reach is released on 10 June.

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