December is something of a graveyard slot for album releases. With many end of year lists already compiled (but, folks, what’s the obscene rush?) it’s easy for albums released in December to get lost in the pre-Christmas rush. Although ‘Third’ by the Grand Gestures, isn’t scheduled for release until the Friday before Christmas (19th) it’s a gem which definitely doesn’t deserve to be lost in translation..
‘Third’ follows the same template as its two predecessors – low key electronica courtesy of Spare Spare’s Jan Burnett, supplemented by a diverse range of vocal talents. This time around, as well as old stagers Jill O’Sullivan and Sanjeev Kohli, the record features a number of new contributors such as Grahame Skinner and Goldie Cameron.
For a band called the Grand Gestures, Jan Burnett’s multi-vocalist ensemble at times seem short of, well, grand gestures. Indeed, if anything, the music on the third album in the trilogy is more minimalist than on either of the previous records. More often than not the backing track will consist of nothing more than a skeletal melody and nagging rhythm leaving the voices up front.
In recognition of the contribution of the vocalists’ contributions, Jan has this time credited the songs to the singers concerned – which is a little ironic since ‘Third’ is, in many ways, the most cohesive Grand Gestures record to date.
A lot of the variety on the record comes from the fascinating range of vocalists that Jan has collected together . The first two male voices on the record illustrate that diversity. ‘The World Will Break Your Heart’ features Gary Clark with his emotive vocals close micced for increased intimacy. By contrast Andrew Mitchell’s floating voice ‘Into The Darkness We Go’ sounds almost heavenly and a little of Julee Cruse on the Twin Peaks song ‘Falling’.
There’s a similar difference between the female vocalists – Pauline Alexander may sweetly sing ‘Fear The Night’ but it’s still a tale of darkness. Elsewhere rather than recruiting an adult to sing with child like innocence, Jan gets his daughter Nina to provide the real deal on ‘Green Yellow Blue’.
Minimalist though the music may be, it certainly is never less than compelling. There’s the beguiling pop of Jill O’Sullivan’s opening track ‘Compos Mentis’ (which sounds almost full blooded given that it features a proto-bass line) through to the spooky instrumental ‘Listening Stations’ and its tolling bell – the only track credited to the Grand Gestures’.
Having said up front that the album is short on grand gestures the closing track ‘You To Me Are Everything’ by Sanjeev Kohli finishes the set with the ultimate grand gesture. Whereas last time out the macabre ‘The Spree of Brian May’ married absurdist humour with the grotesque, this time Sanjeev uses the humour to mask the jet black heart of the song.
‘Third’ is a worthy follow-up to its predecessors. Whilst it may be due to arrive late in the year, don’t make up your best of 2014 list without hearing it.
In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s the last essential purchase of the year.
Pre-order ‘Third’ (with special gifts!) here.
‘The World Will Break Your Heart’ is available as a single now whilst ‘Into Darkness We Go’ will be released as the second single from the record in February.
Here’s one of the tracks that I’ve got a particular soft spot for as it was one of the two songs that MPT premiered a couple of weeks back: