ngineers hail from Manchester and make music composed entirely of reverb-soaked skyward glances and slow reveries, droplets of rain swirling concentric ripples in giant, becalmed lakes surrounded by high-rise tower blocks and boarded-up shops. Guitars, drums, synths and vocals all bleed colour into each other, colour upon colour until blue. Guitars don’t chime or growl but rather roll like mist down a canal, down the canal perhaps, buffeted between blackened buildings as it drifts away from the city, trails of smoke and vapour indistinguishable except by scent. Folly, a mini-album, follows “Home”, their debut single, and builds on an aesthetic already defined pretty strongly; you could call it oceanic, if you liked. You could call it shoegaze, if you liked. But you couldn’t call it prog—the brevity of the songs here keeps them well clear of indulgence.
“A Given Right” floats in like a zephyr, practically intangible, and wafts around for a moment or two before erupting, ethereally of course, and the affect is (I imagine) akin to being in a floatation tank suddenly hoisted aloft by a crane while someone plays a mournful trumpet solo through a computer outside. “Forgiveness” isn’t a million miles away, a different structure maybe but the trick is the same—flotation tank, candles, slow-focus harmonies, only this time without the crane (the same construction device used to hoist Primal Scream’s “Higher Than The Sun” and Spiritualized’s “Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space”, perhaps?). There is a very pretty cover of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter”, which perhaps shows up its company in terms of ‘quality of songwriting’ (if such a quality exists—melodies, chord changes et al being as much in the eye of the beholder as synthetic pastures and tectonic beats, quite possibly) by relying less on luscious sonics than on the innate loveliness of its lyric (“would you have my baby?”) and melody, but Engineers aren’t (yet) about songwriting, so this is hardly a problem.
The influences are clear but not overbearing—Doves and Elbow are brothers, Talk Talk respected uncles, Bark Psychosis the older kid from down the road whose house you stand outside in order to catch a whisper of a tune emanating from his curtained window. In short, that blend of modern psychedelia which makes you feel like you’re on drugs if you’ve never taken drugs, music which begs your attention to wander, not away from the music, but into the spaces where there is no music.
At the moment Engineers are good, but it’s early and they’re edging towards something better. “Come In Out Of The Rain” (which was picked as a single to precede Folly) and “Pictobug” point most directly towards what they could do in just a while if given time. The former is their strongest ‘song’ so far, harnessing a powerful momentum in the chorus and matching sonics for structure with greater balance than they manage elsewhere, and the latter is their least ‘song’ so far, a total acquiescence to the urge to ambient, if such an urge exists. Watch this space.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2004-10-12