Are You Earthed?

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Having started out as an able-enough Krautrock-inspired group, by the time of Are You Earthed?, Appliance had much more individual flair, a happy fusion of the band's English background and its further-afield inspirations. If anything, there was as much Spiritualized in the mix as there was motorik -- not perhaps all that surprising given Jason Pierce's own fascination with the likes of Kraftwerk, to be sure. Certainly Jason Brooks' own vocals have more of the drowsy float and lift of that strain of psychedelia than ever before, and he's actually grappling with singing them as opposed to delivering them fairly flatly. Musically the trio's sense of endlessly forward propulsion gets a spike or two along the way: the recurrent loop/snarl of feedback on "Tuesday Is Nearly Over," the hint of Morricone-styled spaghetti western twang on "The Blue Rider," and the combination of soaring guitar surge and grounded synth-bass circle on "As Far As I Can See." More than once everything connects perfectly -- "Go Native" rides a shuddering slice of funk with just enough aspirational dreaminess in Brooks' singing. David Ireland's drumming and Michael Porter's bass work form the heart of every song in the end, with the former's often-deft way around seemingly robotic beats the secret weapon. His collage of percussion on "Fruits of the Sea" blends both electronic and acoustic drum hits very well, while other gentle combinations on the title track also stand out. Often, as on "Mountains I" and "88," Brooks sounds like he's quietly at the center of a swirl of activity, playing lonely but distinctive guitar parts or sounding like a slightly stunned observer as the structured psychedelia of the rhythm circles around him.

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