Thursday 23 May 2013

Graingerboy - Silent Universe EP

Standing at the edge of his world: Guest blogger and Canadian music writer, Sylvie Hill, reviews the new EP from Simon Grainger (Graingerboy).


Hailing from Leeds, UK, electronic-music veteran Simon Grainger (AKA Graingerboy) expands his musical territory beyond a 90’s Ibizan sunset heritage (and work with Ministry Of Sound’s Electric Boutique) with his latest creation, 'Silent Universe'. The 5-track digital EP release finds this former backing vocalist and lead keyboardist for pivotal British electronic heroes, A Man Called Adam, bridging the worlds of the Balearic scene into an oftimes fuller sound, crossing subtly into almost indie-alt dance tracks.

'Silent Universe' follows up Graingerboy’s LP, 'Shadowformerself'. Co-produced by Ian Catt (Saint Etienne), the debut album was revered as a coveted collection of carefully crafted electronic pop songs with substance, harmonies, and the occasional ambient wash. DMC (Disco Mix Club) Magazine hailed the set as “enigmatic.” The same can be said of 'Silent Universe'.


The paradoxical titling of 'Silent Universe' can signal the dichotomy of quiet grandeur, which describes the EP perfectly. It may also reveal Grainger’s intent to establish peace amidst the big and incomprehensible. In his private life, quiet chaos describes both Grainger’s personal fight in surviving a near-death experience in the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake, and his ambitious but slow recovery from M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). In his music world, sparse-electronic fullness characterizes his sound, one that could be compared to the likes of The Beloved or Hot Chip. Though techno beats underlay the grooves, Graingerboy takes care to flesh out the tunes by embracing a more singer/songwriter approach, like Ben Watt & Tracey Thorn’s Everything But the Girl’s 'Missing' (Todd Terry Mix), which soundtracks our after-hours dramas.

'Silent Universe' swaggers in with the opener, 'Cheaper Than a Taxi Home'. Fat bass lines give way to muffled vocals layered in fuzz, laying down the gritty ground rules for a one-night stand: “don’t want to be the missing piece you see.” Synths slither in at bare and naked parts, vibing that electro-sparse sound, and give the tune an eerie-seductive bent. Accompanying female vox amp up even fuller with the danceable chorus, as Graingerboy chimes in: “when the morning comes you better not tell a soul; harder than it looks but cheaper than a taxi home.” Throughout, a nice touch of winding whiny guitars twist with the synth back into verses, the interplay bringing order to the sonic business and mixed up emotions of the story. Delicious.

Next, the album moves gracefully into Graingerboy’s brilliant interpretation of Stockholm, Sweden’s Stina Nordenstam’s 'Trainsurfing'. It’s an unusual song choice for an electronic artist to cover, but Graingerboy has made no secret of his admiration for the singer/songwriter approach favoured by the likes of Depeche Mode and New Order, as well as Bjork and Kate Bush.

“They were completely doing their own thing,” Grainger says of these artists’ creative ingenuity. “I have a lot of respect for that kind of musical bravery.” Grainger’s own leap in covering singer/songwriter Nordenstam is a sensational win. Synths swirl artistically and paint perfect atmospherics for this track. Graingerboy’s angelic and harmonious voice sings Nordenstam’s cautionary words about hovering at the edge: “The laws of silent universe / we fight with high and fast / we fight with close and dangerous / with things that doesn't last.” Enchanting.

'Summersend' follows, with an up-tempo, Balearic reinterpretation from British indie-dance icons, Saint Etienne. Swirling strings and melancholic Ibizan washes underpin a tale of a burgeoning love affair, and a realization of the importance of living life for the moment: “So calm, so gently, what a summer disappointing, ‘til you, came through, thank you.”

Flying Solo, a lament of a love affair lost, pulled apart by distance, triumphs in nonchalant sentiments: “I’m in trouble, you’re holding all the cards / I’ll fight this battle, but I won’t take things to heart / just feed me answers like where did you go / like why I’m flying solo this far from home.” It’s this soaring chorus of falling from being fallen in love that compares to Pet Shop Boys’ unforgettable 'Domino Dancing'.

Here, Graingerboy marks his ground successfully, his storytelling and full sound at its most spectacular. Clap beats (reminiscent of Billy Idol’s 'Eyes Without a Face') and M83 'Midnight City' synths (minus the apocalyptic dread) make this track unforgettable.

The EP closes out with New Order-ish 'Be Foreve'r. The retro-80s feel lightens the heavier loads, marking a full circle around Simon’s universe, with the chants “you break, you break, you break you don’t break” and “keep your head up while you still can.” Through some dark patches, Silent Universe emerges to light, with depth.


While tracks off 'Shadowformerself' all made the Top 30 influential DMC Zzub Chart, it’s not surprising Simon Grainger was listed in Out In The City Magazine's “Top 30 Up and Coming UK Talents” alongside Rod Thomas (Bright Light, Bright Light), Oliver Simm (The xx), UK political writer Owen Jones and Radio Host Nick Grimshaw. Undeniably, Grainger’s talented output with 'Silent Universe' demonstrates how he became listed as a future star in UK music industry bible, Music Week. His legacy was secured in radio support from 6 Music, BBC Introducing, Kiss FM and Album of the Week on BFBS, to name a few. 'Silent Universe' compliments that success, with more achievements, like shining sonic gems plucked perfect from the edge of Grainger’s universe, sure to follow suit.

Graingerboy's website

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