Engineers
Always Returning


4.0
excellent

Review

by JJKeys USER (12 Reviews)
February 18th, 2015 | 13 replies


Release Date: 08/11/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A quiet victory

Engineers have been quietly tinkering away in the background of the music scene with their discrete dream-pop and shoegaze sounds for over a decade. Their music has been broadcast on television screens on both sides of the Atlantic, from shows like Top Gear to Gavin & Stacy to Big Love, yet have flew quietly under everyone's radar. Until recently, that is, when they signed to progressive record label Kscope – and as you'd might expect, the progressive sound has rubbed off a bit on their latest efforts in Always Returning, and twinned with a change in line-up has resulted in Engineers' strongest record to date.

The latest permanent addition to the band is established electronic artist Ulrich Schnauss – although lead vocalist and guitarist Mark Peters and Ulrich have collaborated prior to Always Returning (Ulrich even appearing in Engineers' previous album In Praise of More), the album is wholly written by Peters. This may sound like a cause for concern, yet despite the single-mindedness in terms of songwriting, the album is subtly varied whilst allowing each song to be seamlessly coherent with the rest. From the bouncy pop tunes of 'Searched for Answers' and 'A Million Voices' to the chilled ballad-esque 'Smiling Back' and the relatively hard-hitting rock opener 'Bless the Painter, the album is far from stagnant; and despite each song sounding familiar, it is this familiarity that is one of the factors that makes the album so comforting. Unlike Engineers' Kscope siblings, this album focuses more on creating an atmosphere of pleasantness rather than progressions, but by no means does that imply that Always Returning has none. Most songs have similar verse-chorus structures, but the instrumental breaks nearing each songs' outros bring an unexpected and enjoyably subtle shift in the songs direction.

The use of melodic instrumentation is quite thorough yet retains the band's simplistic approach – countless sounds from different instruments wash in and out of each ear relentlessly to create simple, charming melodies one second and counter melodies the next. This is perhaps best displayed in the instrumental 'Innsbruck', where attention shifts from pianos, guitars and synthesizers in a heartbeat. There is very little area in this album which one can permanently focus on in terms of instrumental melody as it's ever changing, yet this lack of permanence makes the album all the more liquid and ethereal. Schnauss' arsenal of synthetic sounds create a soft backdrop to each song, yet even then they begin to interfere and disrupt with themselves, forming rich, layered atmospheric sounds. Always Returning is prevented from dissipating into the air with down-to-earth bass riffs and drum beats; both of which are simplistic enough to avoid causing distraction yet still remain interesting. Yet even this foundation faces impermanence in the outro to 'Always Returning' in that these rhythm instruments begin to mirror the melodies produced by the rest of the band.

Peters stated that he wanted to make Always Returning with a 'sense of mystery'; this aim for ambiguity is certainly displayed through unresolved melodic focus and full atmospheric sounds, but is also achieved through the use of androgynous vocals. Nearly everything sung by the relatively deep-voiced Peters is counter-balanced with soothing angelic vocals from guest musician Sophie McDonnell, which certainly sets Always Returning apart from Engineers' previous works. In addition to these layers of vocals, multiple layers of Peters' vocals are often panned in each side adding to the already established ambiance. Ambiguity is further built upon with Peters' lyricism, perhaps epitomized best in the chorus of the title track: 'some things you get by just asking/something you get if you ask or not/some things can be never ending/sometimes an ending is all you've got'. This simplicity and impartiality in lyricism occurs throughout the whole album, which can either be interpreted as the album having no deep meaning, or quite conversely as being so much more.

Some may argue that what this album really needed was writing input from Schnauss, but work written by both Schnauss and Peters already exists and Always Returning does perfectly fine without it. This album is not groundbreaking nor is there anything considerably mind blowing about it both conceptually or instrumentally, but it is a wholly polished and enjoyable album that plays to the bands strengths extremely well. It is the soundtrack to a comforting dream; like a feeling of inertia, shifting in and out between fantasy and reality when waking up in the morning. They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone, yet listening to Always Returning brings comfort wherever you go - and that's more than fine by me.



Recent reviews by this author
Kairon IRSE! UjubasajubaKing Crimson The Elements of King Crimson - 2014 Tour Box
The Flower Kings Desolation RoseBent Knee Shiny Eyed Babies
Bjork VoltaicJordan Rudess Explorations
user ratings (8)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
JJKeys
February 18th 2015


491 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Full album stream: https://soundcloud.com/kscopemusic/sets/engineers-always-returning



Finally got round to reviewing this; I was meaning to do it last August when it first came out but it kept slipping my mind.

Mad.
February 18th 2015


4420 Comments


Great review bro, glad you finally got round to it. Very interested now if this is their best record, the first 3 are great but never reach any truly amazing heights.

Only thing I noticed: "...yet retains the bands' simplistic approach" the apostrophe should be before the s

JJKeys
February 18th 2015


491 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oops, thanks Mad! I thought I did alright proofreading it but, hey-ho.



I never actually listened to In Praise of More all the way through, only a couple of songs from it. Their debut was really good, and I wasn't too impressed with Three Fact Fader but it's still quite nice. Engineers have always been on the side of my pallet and I never paid close attention to them, but this album has got me really hooked.

Mad.
February 18th 2015


4420 Comments


IPoM is the best of the first three for sure, should have been a stepping stone to a magnum opus. I used to listen to it all the time. 3FF probably has their best song with Brighter As We Fall though

JJKeys
February 18th 2015


491 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'll definitely have to check it out - but huh, BAWF did nothing for me really



I'd have to say my favourite song is 'New Horizons' from their debut; then probably 'Bless the Painter' and 'Innsbruck' from Always Returning. I'm a sucker for polyphonic vocals

Mad.
February 18th 2015


4420 Comments


That song seems to be one of their only songs that goes somewhere exciting - the tremolo picked guitar in the chorus / second half is pretty powerful

There's a bunch of great tracks on IPOM like What It's Worth, To An Evergreen and Twenty Paces. Probably their most distinctive album of the three

I found their debut largely forgettable, but should probably relisten

PappyMason
February 18th 2015


2425 Comments


Good review man, pos'.

Have a look at this sentence again: "These layers of vocals are also in addition with multiple takes of Peters'", it reads a bit clumsy to me.

JJKeys
February 18th 2015


491 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

How about this?:



In addition to these layers of vocals, multiple layers of Peters' vocals are often panned in each side to add to the already established ambiance.

PappyMason
February 18th 2015


2425 Comments


Yeah, I think that reads better.

Perhaps change 'to add' to 'adding to the already established ambiance'.

JJKeys
February 19th 2015


491 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Edited - cheers for the feedback!

TheSpaceMan
April 22nd 2015


3337 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is such a great album

TheSpaceMan
April 22nd 2015


3337 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

also pos'd cause this is a really solid review my man

JJKeys
April 22nd 2015


491 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks! In retrospect, it's one of the few reviews that I'm actually pleased with myself for writing



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy