Black Light

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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien

Having left experimental folktronica outfit Tunng to forge a career in teaching, Sam Genders returns to his previous day job with Black Light, the first release under his new, slightly academic guise of Diagrams. Despite outside input from the likes of alt-pop singer/songwriter Micachu, folk chanteuse Hannah Peel, and Fever Ray producer Subliminal Kid, its ten tracks aren't that much of a departure from the three albums he recorded with his former band, as Genders' deadpan, Derbyshire tones weave their way around an array of jerky rhythms, kitsch electronica hooks, and lush acoustics. Its quintessentially English sound could possibly find a more receptive audience following the surprise success of fellow avant-garde exponents Metronomy, but other than the nagging basslines and infectious handclaps on the '80s-tinged new wave of "Tall Buildings," and the warm brass arrangements on the Badly Drawn Boy-ish "Antelope," there's little to latch onto as the delicate, folky melodies and understated production all meld into one undeniably pretty but ultimately forgettable slice of low-key, left-field pop. Perhaps with a more expressive vocalist, the likes of the Elbow-esque balladry of "Peninsula," the Space Invaders-inspired synth pop of the title track, and the jangly psychedelics of "Ghost Lit" would have made a more lasting impression, but Genders' matter of fact Jona Lewie-esque vocals are too often guilty of draining all the energy out of a song before it's reached its whimsical chorus, while even the "Disco Bloodbath Remix" of "Night All Night" fails to give the pastoral folk number some much-needed oomph. Any Tunng fans disappointed by 2010's Genders-less And Then We Saw Land will no doubt welcome his return, but if Black Light was subjected to a school report, it would read "must try harder."

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