Review Summary: Clicking and tapping into action, this is one innovation that never quite gets going.
For whatever credentials Blue Sky Black Death had intended to fill with Slow Burning Lights
– be it making their temporary recruit Yes Alexander a budding star or simply putting them on the map for more than just hip hop producers – what comes out is just their ‘final curtain’ of 2008. Seeing as how the album was actually compiled, recorded and completed the other side of last January, should this really make sense? Yes and no. Because it’s so in tune with Late Night Cinema
but almost predating it in certain ways, the pure scenery covered in Slow Burning Lights
is a representation that plays to their landscaping talents, so yes. Also, because the team’s third-time-lucky move of the year dabbles with old tricks and new ones (in equal measures crafted trip hop and dream-pop) surely ending this way is a welcome pleasantry? Certainly, but here’s three people concluding another year with a gift far too nonchalant to ever overshadow its counterparts.
Slow Burning Lights
never really sounds like an album that matters to either group. To Yes Alexander especially, it should mean more; she is of course headlining the release, and the problem is that she doesn’t sound all that convinced about it. Her voice is a sketchy, borderline soul attempt that comes off rigid and considering the pretty landscape provided by her partners, heartless. She swoons some of the most relevant words possible on “Honestly” – how could a whimper of Please don’t you think of me/I’m nothing obviously
come out so still? These words are precise because Slow Burning Lights
really becomes this motto: it’s an album so intent on laying the listener to rest that it actually becomes eager to fly over your head. Really, this is down to the almost awkward interplay abound because at some point, the album splits into less of a collaboration and more of a mingling of two parties. For Blue Sky Black Death, exhausted by their own unbelievable presence for music this year, they seem to simply lay down the beats, the claps and the keyboards, and let Yes Alexander play around with her backdrop. Basically, the trio of musicians have created slow-beating indie pop that melodically is restrained from becoming its own art by a lack of communication - only “Tokyo Underground” gets it right, luxurious piano broadly spread behind a finally insistent voice. It’s the sound of the collaborators understanding each other, and it never returns.
With its elusive, summery singing making the primary call to a well-deserving broadcast, the indie pop of Slow Burning Lights
is hardly aspiring to appeal to the same people who yearned for the soothing instrumental hip hop in Late Night Cinema
or A Heap Of Broken Images
. Even so, the beats that secretly govern Slow Burning Lights
show off Kingston and Young God warming to their authentic instrumental authority, and in such it’s so easy to see leftovers of their year recycled in the foot-tapping “Hot Night” or the musically revolving “Once Away” – to them, it’s business as usual. And so it should be for Yes Alexander, who is unknowingly given the chance to shine in a rather backwards move for (self-proclaimed) indie pop. Instead, she contributes to a laid-back, trip hop wound out album that can never really ignite the catchiest moments of music.
Still, for its fresh theme and belated release, Slow Burning Lights
isn’t the first sign of Blue Sky Black Death burning out on new material – it’s just the duo’s way of bowing out of an active, diligent year.