GERRY MITCHELL/VARIOUS PRODUCTION: The Invisible Lodger (Fire Records)


Posted on Mar 10th 2009 10:56 pm

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Gerry Mitchell/Various Production: The Invisible Lodger

The Invisible Lodger
Fire Records 2009
17 Tracks. 38mins41secs

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Some years ago, before The Black Dog became a three-headed entity again, Ken Downie teamed up with Scottish poet Black Sifichi on Unsavoury Products, weaving a densely layered electronic web around Sifichi’s haunting, claustrophobic or plain surreal poems, and his equally dense vocal inputs, for what remains his most uncompromising record to date. The secretive Various Production unit embarked on a very similar project when enlisting the services of another Scottish poet and artist, Gerry Mitchell, whose voice and texts sign-post the whole of this album, while VP warp their usual urban-flavoured electronic textures, tinted by occasional sweeping folk undercurrents, to soundtrack his contributions.

Various Production have built a reputation for outstanding EPs, released primarily through their own, eponymous, imprint. In addition, they have become prized remixers, having reworked tracks by artists as diverse as Ian Brown, Bomb The Bass, Virus Syndicate, the Sugababes or Adele. After being courted by some of the biggest independent UK labels for months, Adam Phillips and Ian Carter, the pair behind the project, delivered a stellar debut album, The World Is Gone, featuring a host of vocal contributors, on XL in 2006.

On paper, their second album sounds as unlikely an affair as their first, and, therefore, as promising. Unfortunately, Various Production fail to deliver where Downie triumphed. Their soundtrack is undoubtedly dense and quite interesting, yet it remains in the dark for the duration of the record as the pair never dares to draw the curtains enough to let some light in and offer a counterpoint to Mitchell’s ditribe. One of the most interesting sides of the Black Dog/Black Sifichi project was Downie’s constant shift in his approach to Sifichi’s texts, at time underlining the mood of a particular poem, at other running playful rings around it. Here, Various Production are stuck in one particular track and don’t seem to know how to get out of it. The music occasionally evoke the oppressive and bleak urban swirls of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, which is not a bad thing in itself of course, but it doesn’t quite level to the pair’s potential. Where The World Is Gone was totally original, and continues to surprise and fascinate, the painfully distressed beats, distorted sounds and broken melodies plastered across The Invisible Lodger are all too predictable.

Lost in the middle of this, Mitchell occasionally becomes almost anecdotal, his voice, and words, encased in VP’s layered electronics, all but lost to the human ear or, worse, to the attention. There are, however, some glorious moments here: English Estate for instance, with its Eastern European mood, finds a strange echo in the work of Band Of Holy Joy or Matt Elliot, while the glacial Hole In My Memory, and later Spindle World, give Mitchell’s voice a contrasting warm glow. Elsewhere, Robot Dialogue is an example of how the dense metallic formations created by Phillips and Carter could have worked, if only they had been less invading and set against lighter moments, like the ones found, all too little, and all too late, on The Wrong Idol for instance.

The Invisible Lodger is undoubtedly an ambitious project, rendered more complex by the intrusion of spoken words, but Various Production had the potential to take this project to the level it deserved. The result however falls short of the mark, and while this album remains an interesting piece, and a pleasant enough record, it never goes much beyond that.


Icon: arrow Various Production | Various Production (MySpace) | Gerry Mitchell (MySpace) | Fire Records
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