Antennas to Heaven


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On the duo's second album, Antennas to Heaven continue to explore their preferred vein of part epic, part calmly reflective rock, with the combination of spoken word and often dramatic music continuing as before. As such, Hermeneutics is on the face of it an extension of past work, but this time around the group has brought a little more focus to bear, resulting at many points in strong songs that work on their own rather than part of an attractive whole. "Gravy Is Gravy," the first full song on the album, captures Phil Hodgson's vocal delivery very well -- conversational, chatty, like a voice at your elbow in a pub or out and about -- while David Smith's music, if working again with some established sonic conventions, hits a soaring conclusion that works, rather than simply being sonic swells for the sake of them being there. Smith's deft hand around the many styles that can be brought to bear isn't limited to his guitar work -- consider the way the lead melody on "My Robot Lets Me Watch the Cricket" gets backed with a simple but just right drum punch and break, or how "Ghost Carp" moves effortlessly from understated solo part to full arrangements to a soft conclusion -- if a bit formal in execution, it's still excellently done. The slow-burn build of "0734" to a simultaneously fierce and melancholic conclusion might be his highlight on the album -- the approach isn't a radical change in music but the results are majestic. Hodgson's work is again not track for track, with instrumentals taking the fore, but his appearances are often the exact core of the song -- the soft echo on the piano-led "Play Off" applied to his vocals adds a further distant, here-but-not-here edge to the lost and forlorn feeling of the track, and if the effect is uncannily like "Tracey" from Mogwai's Young Team, then it's a fine role model to follow.

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