Switching from electronics to live instruments for his first album for Tomlab, the science-informed concept album Everything/Everything finds the wonderful work of Simon Bookish -- somewhere between the informed wryness of Ivor Cutler and the continuing impact of David Bowie's archly English romanticism -- in full flight. With the music provided by orchestrations from woodwinds, strings, brass, and much more besides, the feeling is one of playfulness, a resistance to and celebration of easily grasped pop forms and a sense that the world is there to be amused at and with. Even so, there are a couple of overarching models or two Bookish can't quite escape -- Stereolab is almost the gimme, thanks to songs like "The Flood" and the juggernaut of "Alsatian Dog" suggesting the meta-'60s pop of that group well at work, but with Bookish's none-more-English vocals in place of Laetitia Sadier's understated calls. The feeling overall is of self-possession -- there's a confidence in the sound, an inversion of "indie" as either withdrawn moping or rehashed anthemicism in favor of playful and direct collage. Therefore the smoother feelings of "Dumb Terminal" play perfectly against the stiff art-jazz breaks on "Carbon," and "Il Trionfo del Tempo"'s dramatic sound textures against Bookish's spoken words. To spiral from that into the immediate pop merriment of "Synchrotron" almost without a break -- and with no apologies for pushing one side of the approach and then the other -- is the sign of someone who has it just right.
by Ned Raggett