The band’s – is a duo a ‘band’? – second album release and one that moves onwards from The Fall debut and does so in an investigative and searching manner. Both Justin Greaves, the driving force behind Crippled Black Phoenix and Swedish vocalist, Belinda Kordic, examine mental health in its broadest sense, examining the line between sanity and insanity and how, on occasion, it takes a lot of work to stay on the ‘sane’ side of that line.
Nordic has an intriguing vocal delivery, sounding a little like a ‘treated’ Cerys Matthews in style which adds a certain light and frisky touch to the earnest, heavy and rich arrangements created by Greaves. It is a satisfying blend because those arrangements are prog/post rock in style, giving the listener much to ponder as the music changes time signatures and presents nuggets of symphonic bliss. That said, there are several honest-to-goodness catchy hooks in there, not least from the first track, Going Home, which offers a wall of sound that Kordic breathily penetrates…just. Giving me the impression that Curve might have been an influence here.
While the arrangements are of interest, there is a sense of a contextual thread that runs through each, leading to similarities in both vocal delivery and the tone of the arrangements that might prompt accusations of a lack of imagination and a call for greater variety. I’m not accusing the album of being monotone, far from it. What I do sense from this album is that it has been recorded almost like a live gig with a single set up and the songs move around that single set up: I think subtly and nuance is where this album is at.
In terms of audiophile sonics, this music is ‘full on’, so any excessive peak limiting or other compression would quickly make it unlistenable. Scope has resisted such a move, though and it’s to the benefit of the album as a whole. Yes, there is a touch of compression here that lifts the volume a touch and can be detected in the crescendos of the lead guitar but there is nothing to worry the ear too much here.