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epic45 – Monument EP

It’s always a challenge for me when a favoured artist or group makes the transition from my personal collection to the increasingly imposing review stack. (Stay objective, stay objective) epic45 are electronica duo Rob Glover and Benjamin Holton and if I mix up who does what in the band on a consistent basis, it’s more important for you to know that I return to their records with a regularity that belies my ridiculously overloaded musical lifestyle.

A typical epic45 record delivers glitchy beats, static, acoustic (not only) instruments and sensitive vocals. These releases are all about mood and tone. For me epic45 evoke a romanticised middle England from childhood memories – long summer hols, ice cream in the village green, climbing trees scraping knees…. There’s an edge though. epic45’s currency is fading innocence. Their songtitles and lyrics substitute any rose tint with sepia. The duo are covertly political in this respect, their music revealing the UK for the dump that it is simply by reminding us what it isn’t. They are one of Britain’s most quintessential acts.

Monument contains all of the aforementioned ingredients yet if anything sounds even more pastoral than before. A ‘back to basics’ move perhaps? If their records have always been airy, Monument is elemental by comparison. Opener ‘Defeat’ throws a backward look to 1980’s production values – all top end, adding mock World Music percussion and glistening little flourishes. Yet everything here revolves around the gentle, graceful title track ‘Monument’ (See video) Whichever of Ben or Rob sings (I’m sorry folks, I tend to eschew ‘research’) they evoke Ian Broudie (Lightning Seeds) and, although not powerful, this suits the music perfectly. Here’s the thing. Monument is nice. Nothing more. As a waltz it is almost upbeat in epic45 terms and its drum roll-out tips its hat to Joy Division‘s ‘Atmosphere’ but ‘Monument’ doesn’t carry the same significance. Given the way epic45 title their releases I was expecting Monument to be some kind of career landmark – a stake in the ground. Against their wondrous canon of work so far this EP is more of a bookmark.

Next up is ‘Skeletons’, a far more ambient piece which will make sense to existing fans. After that, things get weird. The fourth track is a cover of Tears For Fears ‘Ideas As Opiates’, a song which originally appeared on their (surprisingly excellent) debut album The Hurting. Brilliant title, (more Eyeless in Gaza than Tears For Fears, IMHO) but a languid album track for the eighties band. In the hands of epic45 it is rendered early post rock with touches of Spirit Of Eden Talk Talk and even Boo Radleys circa Giant Steps.

Some say epic45 are England’s answer to Hammock. I say they are Trumpton’s answer to Mogwai. Monument isn’t their most ‘epic’ 45 to date. I looked it up in a well-known galactic guide and the description said “mostly harmless.” Monument is lighter, less melancholia-drenched than the spectral releases which have immediately preceded it. 2011’s Weathering and 2009’s (absolutely essential) In All The Empty Houses seem, if not a mile away, far enough to put them in the next village.

The EP closes out (or includes as bonus – however you look at it) two additional mixes of ‘Monument’. One of these is a straight remix by ISAN and pushes the piece into minimalist IDM territory. The other is a reworking with Ian Crause of Disco Inferno. I couldn’t conjure a more fitting collaboration.

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