A little bit of background for the uninitiated to start with. The Grand Gestures is the lo-fi electronica project of Spare Snare front man Jan Burnett in which he invites a range of vocalists to embellish his stark compositions.
The debut self-titled release was one of the unexpected treats of last year for me but it only came out in the summer. So the second Grand Gestures LP entitled, um, ‘Second’ (out next week) seems to have arrived hard on its heels. When you consider that, as well as last year’s LP, there’s also been an excellent Spare Snare album already this year, it’s clear that Mr Burnett has been very busy of late.
Musically ‘Second’ treads a similar path to the stark electronica of the debut but it also pushes TGG into new territory. In part that can be explained by the expanded list of collaborators with the half a dozen original contributors joined this time around by R.M. Hubbert, Bdy_Prts, Tom Doyle and Pauline Alexander (although, to be fair, one half of Bdy_Prts was already on board.)
But whilst ‘Second’ may occupy similar territory, I very much get the sense that it’s more of a cohesive record than the debut. ‘The Grand Gestures’ at times felt a bit like a compilation with the likes of Emma Pollock and Jill O’Sullivan seeming to import more than a residual trace of their own musical style to the album.
This time around though there’s no doubt that their contributions are very much assimilated into the overall feel of ‘Second’. Emma’s haunting track ‘Running With Scissors’ illustrates that by opening on a sustained drone and two thirds of the track passes by before the backing stretches much beyond a series of similar notes and some minimal percussion.
Jill meanwhile sings on the opening track ‘Daybreak’ which perhaps isn’t as uplifting as its title would suggest. There’s an atmosphere of sadness about the song albeit that’s mixed with a little defiance when the drums kick in.
My overall impression of ‘Second’ is that it’s an eerie sounding record. If you’re looking for further evidence of that there’s the surprisingly skeletal Bdy_Prts contribution ‘Sum of Our Parts’, whilst ‘Life is Okay’ (featuring Celie Byrne) can fairly be described as slightly sinister nursery rhyme dub.
One of the new contributors is R.M. Hubbert and the evil disco of ‘Regret Is A Dish Best Served Cold’ is not only one of the best things on here but maintains the unsettling atmosphere.
The one track that perhaps won’t have the staying power for me is ‘The Spree of Brian May’ featuring Sanjeev Kohli. I did (and still do) enjoy his contributions to the first LP and the macabre comedy contained in ‘Spree’ certainly appeals but musically it’s not something I’m expecting to be drawn back to on a repeated basis.
What I find interesting about the Grand Gestures is that were this simply a band it would quite likely have bypassed my radar. Yet after the participation of some familiar names hooked me in initially I’ve been happy to hand around for something a bit different.
I’m pretty sure that if you enjoyed the first Grand Gestures record then you’ll love this. On the other hand if you’re looking for something a little different from your two guitars bass and drums indie then ‘Second’ may well fit the bill.
‘Second’ is released on Monday 7th October.