Review of Trajectories Album by Rams' Pocket Radio

Rams' Pocket Radio (essentially a solo project of multi-instrumentalist Peter McCauley) has been making some serious waves with radio play on big stations and a tour with Snow Patrol while remaining relatively obscure with dramatic, mostly piano-led songs. Trajectories is a box set of three of his EPs in one handy, clever yet minimalist package. 

Rams' Pocket Radio Trajectories Album

All three EPs work together remarkably well as one coherent body of work and, with a bit of shuffling and swapping around, would stand up as a great and varied album. This, however, somewhat defeats the object of keeping the collection on three separate discs, each of which is able to stand up on its own merits as well.

The first disc begins with the dramatic and awkwardly titled Dieter Rams Has Got the Pocket Radios, which comes on a little bit like a piano led version of the sorely missed Oceansize. Everything about it suggests scale: from the crashing drums to the grandiose orchestrations. The song is both progressive and experimental while also remaining melodic and accessible. Elsewhere on disc one is the sparse, almost Steely Dan work out of Friendship Fails You, which is much more retrained and shows a great deal of personality compared to a lot of the other tracks compiled here which can seem a little cold and sterile.

EP number two starts off with Dogs Run in Packs which offers pretty much more of the same as EP one, before giving way to the next three songs which are much more experimental in tone. You and Me, Babe is a much more downbeat, slow burning number packed with synths and The Sickness, The Taste finishes off this EP with an almost nightmarishly discordant crescendo. It is suitably epic and a little challenging on first listen. Where Rams' Pocket Radio could quite easily just write huge sounding Coldplay-esque anthems, it is encouraging to see that he likes to stretch himself into strange, experimental shapes.

The final quartet of songs that makes up Trajectories is easily the most challenging disc of the set, which is by no means an insult. It opens with probably the highlight of this entire collection 1 + 2, which is driven by synths and powerful female backing vocals. McCauley himself has a great voice, but this addition is welcome and really takes the sound to a new level entirely. Elsewhere is the brooding Swallow, and the skewed time signature morose shuffle of Body and the Sea. The collection ends on a fairly traditional sounding piano ballad, which sits in stark contrast to the daring experimentation which characterizes every single one of the other eleven songs on offer here.

What Trajectories on the whole offers is a brilliantly well thought out and polished collection of songs. Sometimes it suffers as a lot of music does in this post-Radiohead world of ours from a lack of soul and personality, but really, if these are the formative steps of Rams' Pocket Radio, it is almost mind bogling to think what he might be able to achieve next.

Ben Walton  

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