Friday, October 23, 2015

John Grant: Swallowed by Synths

John Grant's music has taken an interesting route since he first went solo in 2010. Queen of Denmark was a lush, verdant album consisting mostly of organic sounds and classic rock instrumentation; it would have sounded quite a lot like Midlake, who served as Grant's backing band on this LP, were it not for the striking sci-fi synth sounds that Grant kept chucking in.

Listen, for example, to the first few bars of Sigourney Weaver:

While this AOR-meets-Star Trek approach was a key part of what made Queen of Denmark so special, those synthesisers were, to begin with, a minor quirk that simply lay on the fringes of Grant's songs, adding depth and colour but never threatening to overwhelm the album's prevailing Midlakeyness.

Fast-forward to 2013, and the release of John Grant's second solo album, Pale Green Ghosts. This time, it was the Midlake-sounding songs that found themselves on the fringe; excluding GMF, It Doesn't Matter to Him, and perhaps one or two other tracks, the synths had moved out of the shadows and taken over totally. The album's eponymous lead single didn't sound like it had even heard of Midlake:

And now we have Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, John Grant's third solo LP and an even more radical step towards some kind of bonkers synth singularity. Grey Tickles makes Pale Green Ghosts look like an Adele album, and if synthesisers were running the show last time, then this record finds #realmusic full-on licking the boots of its artificial overlords.

Mind you, the opening gambit is a bit of a red herring. Grey Tickles, Black Pressure itself is a pretty standard John Grant song, all mid-tempo frown and edgy lyrics about kids with cancer. But then the robots take over once more, and they're cracking the whip harder than ever before: Grant's very voice is often distorted to the point of sounding unnatural and mechanical;

Come to think of it, I'm kind of worried about John Grant. Perhaps he's literally being taken over by a machine, and that's why his albums are becoming progressively more robotic and synth-heavy. Even the most organic element of all - his singing - is beginning to go the same way as its previously naturalistic backing; maybe, by the time album #4 comes out, he'll have gone full mechanoid, and everything will just be heavily vocodered ones and zeroes?

Does this look like a man who isn't turning into an evil robot?

Further Reading:

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