Review Summary: Illium nightlife.
I can’t imagine ever living anywhere but the city. I enjoy the buzz of the daytime, but most of all I love the time after the sun sets and the city goes to sleep. There’s something about the haze of lights, vague scent of tobacco, quiet streets and slight wind chill which creates a sense of intoxication and nostalgia almost as potent as the most beautiful sunsets. It’s strange that something so often considered polluted and claustrophobic can develop such soul at night, but some of the best times of my life revolve around it - staring at the London lights from my suburban home, ambling an inebriated adolescent in empty French streets and losing myself in the blur of an Andean city splayed across the mountains, in which crowds and taxis clog streets and webs of wire cables spin from building to building. That feeling of menace and freedom is one of the most powerful I’ve ever experienced.
is the essence of the midnight city, one in which Tessa Murray’s drifting voice weaves melodies under the neon keys, breezy synths and sparkling guitars of dream pop. There’s a feeling of distance here, with reverb drawing her gentle whispers out in a similar manner to the guitar bends which leave notes hanging delicately in the air. This sense of longing pervades the album; on “The Trip” a soft cooing of ‘ohs’ follows her verses with elevated synths in the background, before she sings ‘so many miles’, silence, ‘away’, and a guitar motif finally twirls in the distance. On “All I Know” her voice rises on ‘fire’ and “Fireflies”’s chorus finishes in a similar manner before more wordless singing. The echoes of her voice on “Beginning To Blue” create an anxious vibrating effect on the line ‘oh my god’ and all throughout the album space is used to enhance the ambiance, with an almost minimalistic purpose reducing the instrumentation to nothing but what is necessary to create a cool cinematic atmosphere.
Musically, Strange Pleasures
is not too dissimilar to Creatures of an Hour
, but the improved songwriting is what puts it so far ahead its predecessor. As important as the atmosphere is, it’s the beautifully crafted melodies and guitar lines which make Strange Pleasures
breath life out of its mould, with every small motif punching energy no matter its volume. Murray’s soft melodies are seldom ‘catchy’, but they are certainly captivating, and the short bursts of guitar are grandiose even outside the context of harmonising synths. “Midnight Drive”’s hook is the moment the guitar crashes into the reverberating spangle of notes it hints at from the start and “We Killed The Moonlight’s” guitar-led chorus is brooding but somehow uplifting. “Fireflies” is the catchiest song and Murray’s voice glides out into the expanse on the title-track closer. On the best song on the album, “The Trip”, all the instruments combine to create something continuously evocative, beautiful and mesmerising. Throughout Strange Pleasures
, the shards of melody and harmony are just as powerful as the atmosphere created through them. On “We Killed The Moonlight” Tessa Murray sums up the entire sentiment of the album- ‘city sleeps, we lie awake’.