[sic] Magazine

Rigil – Concertina Heart

Reviewed by Michael Henaghan

To think that Tangerine Dream were forced to perform and record using banks of synthesizers and generators, given the technological limitations of their era. Those enigmatic Germans did not even have the luxury of a sequencer until several albums down the line, for 1974’s seminal “Phaedra”. These days electronic composition is much simpler mainly due to a little small rectangle device known as a laptop, which is bursting with handy software tools that certainly makes life much easier than Froese and co. ever had it.

Thom Yorke openly admitted that much of his solo record, “The Eraser”, was composed on his laptop during downtime in airports waiting for flights. The laptop opens up limitless potential for musicians and while this is a good thing, it can also have a detrimental effect, with quantity of musicians far exceeding the quality. A quick browse through Myspace Music will reveal that just about every man and his dog has a musical project these days. Dynamophone though normally have a knack of wading through all the dross and usually resurface with a glowing pearl.

Rigil, twenty-something Bedfordshire-based Robert Slade, does not fall into this category. There’s an undeniable skill to the production quality on “Concertina Heart”, where Slade portrays a keen handle on the dynamics involved in emotive, electronic sound-sculpting, while adding organic instrumentation to the digital mix in subtle fashion. Disappointingly though, it’s his actual songwriting where his problems lie; simply they do not stand up against the production of his debut record, with many of his melodies coming across as monochromatic and largely uninspired.

There is a Grand Canyon sized chasm between bland and interesting and Rigil teeters perilously close to the edge. Highlights are a tad thin, but come in the form of the lullabying “Wheatfields”, the vibrant “Marble” and the brooding Depeche Mode stylings of “Free to Roam”. However, far too often, “Concertina Heart” is forgettable, nothing more engaging than background music. Slade’s electronically enhanced vocals (reminiscent of label-mates Pornopop) are rather off-putting and add little to his sound, with many of the tracks clustering into run-of-the-mill electro-pop. Occasionally, he veers into X-Factor histrionics, notable on “Minefields” and even the aforementioned “Free To Roam”.

It’s hard to say if this is a new direction for Dynamophone. They’ve released several excellent records encapsulating this genre; this one though is their most commercial sounding. Not a bad thing in itself, but the songs do not match the quality of their previous output. I suspect this is a minor blip for both artist and label, Slade certainly has talent as shown on “Wheatfields”. Having said that, “Concertina Heart” shows though he has a long way to go before realising his potential.