Saturday 5 May 2012

Absent Without Leave - Faded Photographs

Album review by KevW

When faced with such song titles as 'Balloons In The Sky', 'Daydream Lullaby', 'Where The Birds Fly In Winter' and 'Above The Trees', you can be reasonably sure that things may be about to take a turn for the 'glacial', the 'ethereal', the 'dreamy' and probably the downright 'airy-fairy'. In this respect 'Faded Photographs' doesn't disappoint, containing eight instrumental tracks of gently caressed guitars, shimmering strings and softly quivering ambient waves of woozy sound. It's the type of star-gazing atmospherics you'd normally associate with the chilly climes of the Nordic countries, yet project manager George Mastrokostas is from Greece. Essentially his solo project, 'Faded Photographs' features a host of other musicians covering a wide range of instruments, from melodica to glockenspiel to samples.

Recorded back in 2010, these songs must have steadily evolved as the other inputs and ideas were correlated, and the album was recorded in many locations across the world including Iceland (natch), the UK, America, Austria, Italy and Canada. Its conception was evidently a long and interesting journey, but does the multitude of players and places involved make for a decent end product? Well, yes and no. Despite its fractured creation this feels like a complete and consistent piece of work and the tracks all gracefully slide together. They're well made too, careful attention has been made to these delicate sounds and there's a wistful beauty to be found right through.

The problem is that unless your idea of fun is forty-odd minutes of very similar sounding, fragile post-rock soundscapes then you'll be hard-pushed to wring much enjoyment out of 'Faded Photographs'. As nice as it all is, there's little to engage with and little to excite. This has the unfortunate effect of making the whole thing feel rather like backing music; something to fill space while you get on with the housework/train ride to work/putting together some flat-pack furniture or whatever other menial tasks you have to do. It's not a record that holds your concentration and that's a shame because it's clearly very good, it's just missing that extra sparkle. Still, if it's muzak that you're after, then 'Faded Photographs' sits head and shoulders above any 'Pan Pipe Moods' type nonsense.

Absent Without Leave's website

Buy the album

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