Album review of Go Lucky by Talk Less, Say More.
So, how exactly do you do more with less? From the police chiefs and newspaper editors in Season 5 of The Wire to football managers without Muscovite or Middle Eastern sugar daddies to dumbstruck investment bankers clutching their P45s in the Square Mile, it is perhaps the omnipresent question of 2008. If a blueprint were needed to exhibit how this proposition may be achieved in musical terms, however, one need only take a listen to Go Lucky.
Talk Less, Say More originated as a side project of 'Jell' from Leeds' now sadly departed The Butterfly. Far from the enjoyable histrionics of said band, 2005's 'Meisha's Morning' was an experimental, ambient crawl through various moodscapes. Occasionally pleasing though it was, make no mistake, Go Lucky is a far more mature, cohesive record.
'The Battle of Borodino' opens the album with a melange of Sci-Fi beats and synth pulses, but - and here is the crucial differentiator to its predecessor - for every reference to interstellar metaphysics, proper nouns and bloody Napoleonic conflicts, there is also something earth-bound and time specific. Far too many would-be songwriters strive for grandeur in tackling the abstract without incorporating the nuances of the quotidian and end up with something overly pretentious and forced. It is a signifier of the immature. The craft of the experienced artisan is to show the cosmos in the bus stop and that is exactly what Go Lucky does when at its best.
Magnifying this effect is Jell's use of his own vocals this time round, double-tracked for the most part. Whilst he may not possess the operatic range of Erik Madi Jones who sung on Meisha's Morning (few do, of course), the result is an unheralded success, yielding something far more intimate and personal.
Musically, the restraint shown on the record is noticeable, allowing the songs to breathe and take shape. Chiming synths are the main source of the audio palette here, washing their way against sparse, glitched beats and the occasional warm, winding guitar. A perfect example of this discipline is on 'All Dressed Up Like Love', when the Caribbean guitar line pauses around the minute mark to segue into a slow wave of chords allowed to ring out above the background digital arpeggiator. When the main vocal hook kicks in, it is all the more beautiful and moving for it. This may seem simple, but this paring away of unnecessary clutter is the mark of someone mastering true compositional self-control.
Moments like these are typical of the album's highlights - low-key, subtle, "characteristically calm" as Jell puts it himself on "Up Close, Far Away". It is an emotive journey and effectively closed with 'Life in Cold Blood', the sonic equivalent of a hot bath after a hard day's work.
To summarise, Go Lucky is a gorgeous record, detailing the last gasps of a failing relationship with great stoicism and attention to detail. For those who know, it may prove to be one of the slow-burning successes of the year.