Review of Black Light Album by Diagrams

Back in 2011 Sam Genders' Diagrams released their debut E.P, associating themselves with the hybrid folktronica genre and gaining numerous comparisons to 'Sufjan Stevens'. A few months later and 'Black Light' is released, containing some of the tracks from the E.P whilst leaning considerably towards the electronic side of the genre throughout the majority of the album.

Diagrams Black Light Album

Opener 'Ghost Lit' plays host to a soft guitar part that lies on top of powerful drums while Genders' vocals echo delightfully over space like effects during the chorus, a reassuring track to ease you in to an album of experimentation around a sturdy, pop grounding. The intro to 'Tall Buildings' brings much of 'Deerhoof's most recent material to mind with a screech of 'Hey!' before the groovy bass riff kicks in to provide the loop for the verse of the track. Genders' musical knowledge and range of influences are clear as darker tracks such as 'Night All Night', a track from the Diagrams E.P, and 'Peninsula' combine orchestral strings and brass parts with programmed beats and synthesized loops, providing an alternative for the upbeat tone of the rest of the album.

As the album progresses it becomes increasingly clear that Diagrams have preferred the electronic approach over their acoustic, folk influences. The repeated vocals of 'no time like this time, no time' and spine chilling strings that culminate at the end of 'Appetite' is like being invited into a lush fantasy world. It is hard to resist a smile and a quick dance when no-one's looking as the instrumentation and vocals layer on top of each other in 'Black Light'. The bright synth chords, reminiscent of 'Hot Chip', create an image of skipping through a thriving meadow on a summer's day, forgetting all the issues of daily life as 'nothing else matters, nothing else matters at all' rings clear during the outro.

'Animals' is an example of where the album can become a bit too sugar coated and sweet as the repeated lyrics of 'never believed in love till now, never believed in love' are sufficiently cringe worthy and could quite easily slip unnoticeably into a 'Jason Derulo' single. The funky rhythms of 'Mills' contrast to the Led Zep-esque guitar part in 'Appetite', further stressing Genders' song writing versatility, experimenting with various time signatures and instrumentation throughout the album.

Despite the numerous references and comparisons, Sam Genders is clearly an individual talent and it is impossible to pinpoint Diagrams' specific sound. However, the obvious pop basis makes 'Black light' thoroughly accessible, whilst the experimentation with electronics gives you something a bit different to listen out for each time round.

James Hopkin

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