Posted on Aug 12th 2009 12:43 am
Like Dust Of The Balance
Benbecula Records 2009
10 Tracks. 47mins52secs
Hailing from Newcastle, Chris Leary has been distilling his fine melodic electronica with parsimony over the years. While he first began making a name for himself after winning a remix competition held by Global Goon back in 2002, his first album, A Midsummer Nice Dream, was published two years later on London’s recently resurrected Toytronic. After the demise of the label that same year, Orchre reappeared on Scotland’s Benbecula in 2006 with his second album, Lemodie, on which Leary combined electronic and acoustic into a particularly ambitious soundtrack. Since, he has worked on an installation for the AV Festival in Newcastle, and has released two further EPs.
The fruit of three years of recordings, Like Dust Of The Balance represents a considerable progression from Lemodie. While Leary continues to explore the possibilities of bringing electronic and acoustic instrumentation together, there is on this album, even more so than on its predecessor, a great symbiosis of sound and ambience. Leary constantly blurs the boundaries between the two sources and works at amalgamating them into a perfectly coherent whole. He is aided in this endeavour by long time Plaid collaborator Benet Walsh, who appears on four tracks here, providing in turn percussions, bass, banjo, guitars, violin or mandolin. Walsh’s contribution is perhaps not entirely coincidental. Indeed, Leary’s music shares with that of Plaid a taste for vibrant soundscapes and melodies. But, while the duo’s music has become rather stale and too predictable in the last few years, that of Leary is expending greatly and has gained in confidence and scope. This is perhaps best showcased on the wonderfully poetic Napolese, on which Walsh provides delicate touches of violin and mandolin while Leary creates a lyrical world around these, and later, on the luxuriant and Plaid-esque Lunar Suburbia.
On Raido, Walsh first creates evocative Spanish guitar arabesques over Leary’s layered electronics and beats, then adds a sequenced plucked electric guitar reminiscent for a moment of early Ash Ra Tempel. Pieces like Dustlands, on which Walsh provides percussions, banjo and bass, or later Hang Garden, are much more restrained and voluntarily kept to a less ambitious scope, giving the more elaborate and ambitious compositions interesting counterpoints. The album concludes with another Leary/Walsh collaboration, A Great Wave, on which the latter seems to take a back step, and solo piece The Balance, which once again gives Leary the opportunity to juxtapose electronic and acoustic to create a delicate dreamy moment.
With Like Dust Of The Balance, Chris Leary continues to affirm his vision and define his sound. His increasingly ambitious records denote a desire to explore new territories with every new project, while still retaining the essence of his early work. Benet Walsh’s contributions add to the expressive nature of the record and take Leary’s earlier experiments to a different level.