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Chemistry Experiment - Gongs Played by Voice

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 22 / 2 / 2015



Chemistry Experiment - Gongs Played by Voice
Label: Fortuna POP!
Format: CD

intro

Eccentric but excellent second album and first release in nine years from psychedelic and prog rock-influenced Nottingham-formed indie pop outfit, the Chemistry Experiment


Blessed with a patient label, the Chemistry Experiment made Fortuna Pop's head-honcho Sean Price wait four years for their debut album, 'The Melancholy Death of the Chemistry Experiment'. In an interview with Pennyblackmusic a year after its release, Steven J. Kirk, the band's lead singer and guitarist described making their debut as a “painful process”, more or less conceding that the reason it took so long is that the band didn't really know how to make their recording equipment work. Back at the time of that interview (June 2006), though, it seemed like they'd learned from their mistakes. Work was already well under way on six tracks for a new album, and it already had a title, “Gongs Played By Voice”. Kirk was promising a more organic sound, saying “I have a vision in my head that I want it to sound like the Soft Machine with maybe a bit of Will Oldham and Tindersticks.” So, here we have it, and its 2015 and... yes... the Chemistry Experiment are back with a second album, which ended up taking a mere five years longer than its predecessor (so nine in total). In that time, Kirk has moved away from the rest of the band's Nottingham base and now lives in Italy, while keyboard player Emily Kawaski has moved south to Brighton (where she plays in another group). Drummer Martin Craig's diagnosis with MS in 2009 was another obstacle for the band to overcome. But, the enthusiastic critical reception for “The Melancholy Death...” seems to have been enough to keep the band on the tortuous path towards a second album. Routinely praised for their imaginative take on indiepop, back in 2005, the Chemistry Experiment were a welcome antidote to an indiepop scene over-cluttered with too many bands who sounded exactly like each other. You'd hope that some of those who enjoyed the debut will welcome their return. Far from mellowing in their older age, the Chemistry Experiment return a decade later with an even more eccentric set of songs – blending their roots in psych-influenced indiepop with nods towards prog, dub and mid-period Leonard Cohen (indeed, they cover 'Story of Isaac' from ‘Songs from a Room’, though their own songs owe more to ‘I'm Your Man’). On first listen, it sounds like a perfectly pleasant indie record – the melancholic opening track 'Hung Lam' setting the mood nicely, before the following eight tracks gently ease you through more and more prog influences until you reach the nine minute closing track 'A Good Wind', which makes surprisingly effective use of treated electronic vocals. Along the way, we get the sixties-pop sci-fi tale of ‘Leo & Magician’ (part recent Belle and Sebastian, part Flaming Lips) and the eerie 'Jandek Bakery', which sounds like a Charlatans album track over which the BBC radiophonic department have had some fun. The more you listen, the more you notice. There are also references to “beans on the brain from outer space”, plenty of flute solos and the aforementioned Cohen cover, delivered in an appropriately whispery vocal, but with the band's usual array of psychedelic tropes, turning Cohen's intense original into something that the Incredible String Band might have put on one of their later albums. You imagine that, what with any momentum they may have from their debut having dissipated in the following decade, the geographic isolation and seeming lack of any supporting live dates (not to mention the early January release date), this album is not set to be the big commercial breakthrough. Which is a shame, because in a charming, oddball fashion, it is a splendid way to pass forty minutes.



Track Listing:-
1 Hung Lam
2 Rainy Day
3 Leo & Magician
4 We Have Seasons
5 Jandek Bakery
6 The Event and the Experiment
7 Story of Isaac
8 Channel Light Vessel
9 A Good Wind


Band Links:-
https://www.facebook.com/thechemistryexperiment
http://www.chemistryexperiment.co.uk/


Label Links:-
http://www.fortunapop.com/
https://twitter.com/fortunapop
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fortuna-POP/202756739792517



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interviews


Interview (2005)
Chemistry Experiment - Interview
Nottingham-based group the Chemistry Experiment have just released their debut album after a long struggle. Frontman Steven J.Kirk talks to John Clarkson about the problems with recording the album and why against the odds they persevered


digital downloads




reviews


Interstellar Autumn (2005)
Playful new EP from ever-enterprising Nottingham-based indiepop group the Chemistry Experiment, the main track of which blends Justin Hayward's 'Forever Autumn' with Pink Floyd's 'Interstellar Overdrive'
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