Thursday, 6 January 2011

Shhhh... Urban Parable reviewed in The Quietus

"As peculiar as it sounds, fans of experimental music aren’t known for their unbiased welcomes when it comes to the straighter side of electronic music. Sure, many of these listeners are happy enough to suffer music that sounds like the difficult irradiated birth of some unimaginably structured alien form, but very little from the normal side of town – often regardless of the process or ideas behind it. So despite the fact that Richard Youngs is probably one of the most diverse figures still working in the UK’s folk and drone experimental undergrounds, this duo recording alongside Andrew Paine, a full record of electronica and its numerous 90s subgenres, is probably the most leftfield thing he could ever do.

In the past year or so there has been a distinct shift in this duo’s recorded material, revealing a somewhat branch-hopping style of sideways experimentation. Instead of a just relying on or refining their shared chemistry, there’s been more of a carefree shift in directions. Where nearly all of Youngs’ extensive collaborations with Paine have been under their own names, this disc is out under the Urban Parable moniker. But where their use of the name Ilk feels more like a placeholder for their definite step into the tenets of progressive rock, Urban Parable feels more like a purposeful distancing from the Paine/Youngs brand.

Whether this is a way of avoiding any directly aimed raised eyebrows or screwed up faces isn’t clear, but Urban Parable are unlikely to be hitting the bulls eye of their usual target audience. With its eight separate tracks programmed as a single thirty minute piece, Urban Parable is more capable than it is revelatory. With fairly straight-laced movements in the electronic world covering several subgenres like rubbery up-tempo acid, as-the-crow-flies techno and down-tempo, there were future echoes of this sound on Youngs’ recent ‘pop’ album Beyond The Valley Of The Ultrahits, but little evidence that he’s was going to go all out. Indeed the opening piece here could be a leftover from …Ultrahits, containing a few lines of Youngs vocal over a squiggly bleep synth backing. Those expecting a dose of explosive-minded electronica via the worlds of drone, progressive rock or noise will be disappointed.

However, just when you think that Urban Parable aren’t going to scaring the shit out of Detroit with the frenetic but average acid of the fourth track, they drop a slice of full blown gorgeous house. Probably the simplest of the eight selections, their jiggered electronics don’t appear to be working as well as the simple melodies and structure used here. For those worried that Richard Youngs has been seduced by the dark side of synthetic music, this appears to be more a one-off stop than a destination – take the single-take vocal/guitar genius album for the Volcanic Tongue label or his accapella piece for the recent Root Strata single as evidence. As an exercise in recording this may be a journey into the new for the duo, but as a listening experience this is more of an entertaining but average journey. Now, if only they’d commit to their House album." Scott McKeating (writing for The Quietus)

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