If Maxell ('Break the sound barrier') were ever to see a resurgence in cassette tape sales that then necessitated the need to up date their iconic 80's TV ad's with a new version of Peter Murphy they should look no further than his modern day manifestation, Duncan Robert Illing. Architects Of Grace is Illing's vision, his artistry and creation realised as a musical portfolio. 'Moments In Time', the debut full length offering from Architects Of Grace, represents the culmination of 3 years of work for Illing and his associate musicians.
Having released their original single 'Hot White Sun' back in 2009 it has taken until now to settle on, produce and master an albums worth of material that Illing was entirely happy with. (Not that you can imagine happy being one of Illings default dispositions!) As the music is not going to be confined by the date of its release this matters not. AOG are not about to be T4 darlings, cover Beyonce in Fearne Cotton's Live Lounge or soundtrack the 2012 Olympics. You couldn't correctly pinpoint the birth date of this musical anomaly to any point within the last thirty years, although you may be inclined to err towards its early 80's heyday of Bauhaus and Sisters Of Mercy. (2 tracks on the album are even co-produced by former SOM collaborator Dave M Allen) As long as there is black to wear, dry ice to bath in and dark and dank corners to mix in, as long as there is lace and fishnets, as long as there are day-glo liqueurs and as long as there is a fascination with death, Dracula and decay there will be Goth......"We move like the night, the deeper we go the more we feel. It's dark but it's true, the only way is the way of the night."
From the beginning of Moments In Time you never get the impression that Illing, or his band, are sufficiently mapping out their own destiny with any assurance, rather they are feeling their way as they go, timidly instead of boldly foraging forwards. 'Imperial' opens up the set but escues the accepted norms of traditional songwriting to deliver a far less formulaic but unfortunately far less enjoyable musical composition. It is true that you don't need a chorus verse structure, not everything (or anything) needs to be anthemic, that not all songs need harmony or melody and that easy listening experiences are not always that interesting or creative. However some assemblance and pattern, some coherence in the tune does help, even those on the far fringes of free form Jazz would usually agree upon that. The threads that bind here are weak and tenuous.
The bands second single, and albums second track, 'Reflection' plays more to Illings strengths. Here, as on 'Hot White Sun', it is the driven guitar riffs and roller-coaster rhythms that help build the song. 'Oceans Of The Heart' plays on its atmospheric, cinematic bent as do many of the other tracks including the electronically enhanced John Foxx like slow burner 'Midnight to Midnight'. 'Damaged' sees the Architects attempt harmony without much success and 'Into The Night' plays to the cliched imagery of the genre in which they have chosen to ply their wares, however there is musical redemption amongst the challenging and questionable. 'Insatiable' may have all the hallmarks of classic Goth but it at least has teeth. The scuzzy under belly that crawls along as the score to the menace creates a vampish curiosity brimming with theatre.
Unfortunately mere morsels of elevation do not a good album make. There are too few, and very fleeting, moments to savour from The Architects Of Grace on their debut, 'Moments In Time'. Illing may be cut from a clothe created in another age but I fear his album will be forgotten in no time at all.