Various - The World Is Gone [XL Recordings - 2006]With a name like Various you kind of hope they came upon the notion as a way to piss off people with I-pods, in which case I raise a glass in appreciation of their revolution against post-modern musical zapping. Not only that but they in The World is Gone have produced a searingly cutting edge fusion of dubstep and moody folk to while away the nights of urban (perhaps urbane?) isolation.
The appropriately titled Thunnk begins the album with just that, the digital thunnking of bass and caned strings over which a proto-Timothy Leary monologue describes a decaying mind overtaken by omnipresent faceless digitalia. Then we have the first of the folk tracks Circle of Sorrow, it fuses melancholic repetitive guitar strums with minimal electronics and strings. The female vocalist who is unlisted on the CD sleeve has a voice that floats in that breathy Trip-hop kind of way but it seems fairly appropriate within the context of the music. On the next track Don’t Ask however she emerges from the mix in extreme dub reverb and delay as a harbinger of death wrapped in a kind of digital dub favoured by the likes of Kode9.
There are also tracks with male vocals, the tension ridden Soho which crawls with drug fuelled menace and creeps with slow crushing beats and unidentified electronic scrapes and grinds. The down beat vocals "get me a drink, take away sadness, get me a drink take away my reason" are a testimony to urban isolation and fall into excess and confusion. Sweetness has both male and female vocalists and is more upbeat and driving in tone. The production like all of the music here is impeccable, indicating a far more involved approach to sound design than some of the recent dubstep releases.
Deadman is a beautiful folk/noise hybrid that David Tibet would be proud of, the guitar now plucked amid a wash of steel guitar feedback and distance ambience. The female vocals more desperate and forlorn than before. The title track takes the ethnic hybrid beats of Skull Disco adds a bit of guitar and crunching bass to form a truly apocalyptic soundscape, no vocals only distorted machine sounds. The final track Fly is probably the best of the lot, a truly gorgeous folk piece with an almost regal feel to it with simple repetitive guitar and percussion and swirling ambience. The vocals post-apocalyptic and personal at the same time "fly black raven fly, lift your wings to the sky, I’m certain that I saw, saw that look in your eye"
Various have produced a masterpiece of musical fusion, Dubstep and folk would have seemed uncomfortable bedfellows but with superb song writing and sound design plus a couple of brilliant vocal performance they have produced a genre defining classic.Duncan Simpson