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Surfing the Void

[Polydor; 2010]

By ; August 23, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Had Surfing the Void been released when Klaxons originally intended, somewhere in early 2009, it may have been a radically different album. Polydor rejected the original copy as being too experimental, urging Klaxons to return to the studio and re-record various tracks to make a more radio-friendly sound, more akin to Klaxons first release, Myths of the Near Future. It seems that Klaxons didn’t entirely cave in to Polydor’s demands; the final release of Surfing the Voidis dark, menacing, quite experimental and lacking in any obvious ‘singles’.

The album kicks off with “Echoes,’’ a challenging first single that sees fuzzy electric guitars form the basis for which the often breathy vocals can overlap. Instantly, something hits the listener: the album seems to be rather poorly mastered, either deliberately to create a lo-fi sound or unintentionally as a result of Klaxons disputes with their label. I’d like to think that it is a deliberate move; it doesn’t hurt the album to be a little grittier, and even benefits some of the tracks. “Surfing the Void,’’ is an apocalyptic, riff-heavy beast that seems to thrive on the loudness that mastering would partially remove. Vocals come quick and fast, taking the shouting of older tracks like “Atlantis to Interzone” to new levels in this murky atmosphere.

Overall, Klaxons seem to have gone for a dark, brooding sound that largely plays to their strengths. “Valley of Calm Trees” offers softer vocals and a reluctant, saddening tone as well as one of the most memorable Klaxons choruses so far. Klaxons embrace being British throughout the record; Jamie Reynolds sounds similar to Rob Dickinson of Catherine Wheel during select parts of “Future Memories,” which shows influences in vocals and guitar-work. Elsewhere, the tension is broken in softer, percussion-led tracks such as “Twin Flames,” that places vocals further in the mix and allows the glitch-like guitars to remain in the background, creating a wonderful rhythm.

The album begins to merge together a little as it goes on; there are clearly some stronger tracks that overshadow weaker ones, some of which begin to sound similar. “Flashover” is perhaps one raucous audio assault too far, repeating ‘never seen before, others bring you dolls’ a few too many times. Love it or hate it, Klaxons like to repeat a lot of their lyrics. Luckily, being quite abstract in their lyrics – ‘myriads of silver discs’ – often saves them from inducing tedium, even when they may get a little stale on repeated listens.

Ultimately, Klaxons should be applauded for making such an unconventional sophomore album. It’s a darker, harsher beast than Myths of the Near Future, successfully taking the experimentation that they wished to play with and creating a new sound for themselves (certain areas of this album could be described as ‘doom’). Whether it’s the typewriter rattle at the end of “Venusia” or the surprising shouted delivery of some of their lyrics, Klaxons remain quite an intriguing British band that still have something to offer.


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