Psychedelic synth/six-string dust-up
Having announced ‘The View From Halfway Down’ on his 50th birthday, Andy Bell proves it’s never too late to try something new. It’s a debut solo album of cosmic delight, featuring a bevy of analogue synthesisers and a kit bag of experimental electronic tricks that augment all the jangly guitars.
At a time when electronic pop has never been more popular, it should be stated that this is no case of musical tourism from a man who played in not one but two of the country’s best-loved 90s guitar bands, Ride and Oasis.
Bell has been edging ever closer to electronica since Ride reformed in 2014, whether bringing in Erol Alkan as producer for the Oxford shoegazers’ last two albums, or taking matters into his own hands with his electronic side project, GLOK. This first album proper in his own name brings together the neo-psychedelia of Ride and the lo-fi minimal synth of his alter ego.
‘Love Comes In Waves’, which opens the album, is spangly, sunshine pop that pays tribute as much to the Byrds as it does the steadiness of Neu!. That intrepid rhythm pervades, underpinning richly melodic tracks like ‘Skywalker’, which is oddly reminiscent of Klaus Dinger’s other band, La Düsseldorf.
It’s not all motorik urgency though: ‘Cherry Cola’ reclines on a lazy breakbeat, with plucked guitars and stylistically monotone vocals imbuing a Beta Band kinda vibe. Fuzzy, experimental electronica is also the order of the day on ‘Indica’, complete with backward voices and guitars a la ‘Revolver’-era Beatles (though there’s no sense of pastiche like a former band we could mention).
If many of the tracks contain identifiable nods to other artists – not that there’s anything wrong with homage – then the people here for Ride get a glimmer of the first incarnation on ‘Heat Haze On Weyland Road’, a magnificently moody instrumental with an undertow of chorus-enhanced, dependable bass meanderings. That spectre of familiarity stretched across seven experimental minutes decorated with sonic laser blasts and some tootlings from a melodica, feels like a fitting, all inclusive way to bow out.
‘The View From Halfway Down’ is a variegated collection that works thanks to the strongly crafted rhythms and the loving way in which it was assembled.