SNORKEL: Glass Darkly (Slowfoot)


Posted on Feb 14th 2008 01:49 am

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Snorkel: Glass Darkly

Glass Darkly
Slowfoot Records 2008
10 Tracks. 49mins17secs

Snorkel is a London-based collective with a penchant for eclectic music forms and improvisation. Formed in South London by six musicians with very varied and colourful pedigrees, including singer songwriter and multi-instrumentist Charles Stuart, whose debut solo album was released on Slowfoot in May of last year, and Tom Marriott, who also releases music under a handful of monikers and is one of the founding members of Pest (Ninja Tune), Snorkel have honed their sound by regularly playing. Glass Darkly, the band’s first release, attempts to capture of the energy deployed on stage.

The collective’s genre-bending vision, incorporating anything from dub, fusion jazz, post rock, krautrock, afro-beat and electronica, is expressed through improvisation. Glass Darkly was recorded over three days in a cold studio, situated behind a fish factory, and polished in the band’s own studio.

The album opens with the grinding hypnotic groove and dark incantations of As The Dust Settles, which slowly gains momentum as the formation progressively gets going, before the whole thing collapses on itself. While not entirely indicative of the rest of the record, this piece references enough of what Snorkel have to offer here. All the way through, the collective swerve between the tribal effusion of drummer Frank Byng, the greasy funk of guitarist Lucas Suarez and the twisted sonic collages thrown in by keyboard player and guitarist 129, Ben Cowen (synths and samplers) and Stuart (piano, Rhodes, synths, bass and vocals), while Marriott adds regular injections of trombone and gels it all in layers of effects. The result is at times feverish (As The Dust Settles, Bubble Black, The Conversation, Rub Attractor/My Elephant), spectral (Lower Slaughter, I Saw It In The Sky, Battle Of The Odds) or incendiary (Alligator, The Headphone Mix).

As the album progresses, the atmosphere becomes a bit too dense and overpowering, eventually deflecting the attention from the multiple facets of the music created by Snorkel. Things seem a tad constrained here, as if the collective was focussing too much on trying to capture the raw energy of their live sound. Still, Glass Darkly has some promising moments, which, when Snorkel abandon themselves to the music, are more than satisfying.


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One Response to “SNORKEL: Glass Darkly (Slowfoot)”

  1. […] and funk without ever really settling on any particular genre for very long. This was what fueled Glass Darkly, released three years ago, but, although this was their first album, the band have actually been […]