Friday, March 22, 2013

Album Review :: Low Tide Theory :: The Big Sky

Low Tide Theory

The Big Sky (In At The Eye Records)

April 8 2013


Words: David Beech

It seems these days that more and more bands are finding themselves indebted entirely to the 1980s. There's and ever-growing reliance on synth patterns and effected vocals that, if truth be told, is growing really quite tiresome. Thankfully North Devon's Low Tide Theory manage to encapsulate an era, rather than emulate it. Take that as you will, but personally I've more time for a band who have perfected the nuanced conventions of a genre as opposed to just cottoning on to the obvious aspects and calling it a day.

Low Tide Theory's debut album 'The Big Sky' is a record ode to 1980s royalty. The overt influence of acts such as New Order, Gary Numan and Heaven 17 are all evident throughout the course of the album, as well as slight influence from more contemporary acts such as Editors. Combining these influences makes for a record that blends together a range of emotions and aesthetics from the undoubtedly uplifting first single 'To Begin Again' to the dark and brooding goth-stalgia in album opener 'Starting With Me'.

The whole album swells and moves effortlessly from track to track, at least in the latter half. 'Exit Ramp' is arguably where Johnny Campbell's strongest track vocally. There's an obvious degree of polish on his vocals, but the latter half of the track sees a distinct edge to his voice, as it's coupled with a second vocal track and a euphoric synth that's juxtaposed with the moody atmospherics the latter third of 'Exit Ramp' perpetuates.

It goes without saying the band have saved their strongest songs for the latter half of 'The Big Sky'. The last four songs are truly a testament to what this band are capable of. Rousing and uplifting synth tracks work their way throughout and become more and more infectious with every listen. Closing track 'We All Fall Down' is a particularly laid-back affair. A funky bass line beats below an unbroken surface of delicate keys and atypical percussion, constantly pushing towards a chorus that is particularly evocative of the decade to which the band is obligated.

Over the last 12 or so months there's been a deluge of bands who have allowed their guitars to take a back-seat in favour of synthesizers, personally, this is usually an immediate turn-off, however rather than try to incorporate the nostalgia of the 1980s with a more contemporary feel, like many bands do, Low Tide Theory have managed to recreate the sounds of the decade, and make music that feels like it belongs there. Quite often, fusing 80s synth pop with another genre leaves a record feeling somewhat erratic; in a state of musical purgatory. Here there's no sense of displacement and a complete lack of forced aesthetic, this has allowed the band to create an album that was undoubtedly made for the 1980s over twenty years after the decade came to a close. However while it certainly stays true to it's colours, there's not really any sense of innovation happening at the Low Tide Theory Camp. And while everything here is done to a tee, the overall polish and the fact that nothing here is particularly ground-breaking leaves an undeserved sour taste in ones mouth and an overhanging sense that this album could have been better.

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