Surrounded by Glass


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Surrounded by Glass Review

by Ned Raggett

Longstone's earliest album showed that the duo already had a good handle on what it did best in its initial days -- moody, often minimal psychedelic, electronic, and guitar meditations that were as beholden to earlier landmarks in drone and ambience as newer ones like labelmates Windy & Carl and E.A.R.. Labradford might actually be the best equivalent, though, in starting out with a pleasantly derivative debut, though Longstone shows much more of an interest in polite, dance-derived efforts than that American group ever did. With the lengthy, slow-build start of the title track setting the mood -- after four minutes in, the only thing different about the keyboard zone is its slowly increased volume, while a full arrangement starts up toward the seven-minute mark -- Surrounded by Glass ends on an equally entrancing note with the partially pastoral-themed "Elevation," thanks to the concluding alto sax (or possibly cor anglais) part. In between, a few surprises come out of nowhere -- a great example is on "Internal Vibrations," where a generally quiet track suddenly shifts to a tight acid funk groove monster almost at the drop of a hat. Other influences crop up here and there, often very creatively indeed -- the looped synth-crunch bass roil in "Brickwerk" calls to mind the start of Gary Numan's "This Wreckage," while a more overt Kraftwerk/motorik turn makes up the brief "The Builders Compleat Companion (1738)," gently driving keyboard loops ticking over into the distance. The most prescient tracks in retrospect might be "Living Space" and "Sub-Division" -- if the combination of crisp then increasingly strident breakbeats and squelching bass on the former and the more active, downright peppy grooves of the latter aren't groundbreaking, they're both definitely a launching point for the band's later turns into glitch.

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