Signer - The New Face of Smiling [Carpark - 2004]Over the last couple of years, quite a few bands mixed rock music and electronics. Sometimes it was great, but quite often it was just another CD release we could have done without. The new Signer album does not fall in the great_as_in_fucking_awesome category, but is worth every minute it took me to listen to it.
The man behind Signer is New Zealand’s Bevan Smith, and this is his third release under this alias. As most people of his generation, Smith is in awe with indie rock bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division. The MBV influence can be heard on most tracks through the heavy use of distortion, although Signer are distinctly less noisy. If I had to compare the sound of this album to other, more contemporary bands, it would have to be to people such as Air (more the moods than the music) and M83 (although Signer is more on the pop side while the French duet was clearly on the psyche rock side).
Unlike DNTEL, whose pop is spiced up with some rather dancey electronic music, Signer head the quieter way, choosing to combine its pop leanings with ambient music. It’s quite obvious that they have worked quite a lot on the multiple layers of sounds, striving for subtleness rather than immediacy. Choosing this arguably more complicated way means that a superficial listener will fail to hear what’s so special about them. And to be fair, The new face of smiling is not a “special” thing throughout. Although, ultimately, it is a very rewarding album.
The best tracks are obviously the ones where Signer manages to mix together its shifting ambient patterns with its pop sensibilities and fuzzy guitars. The more straight-up electronic tracks are not very convincing, but, fortunately, there are not many. And anyway, when I get to the last track, Your ears across the fences, I can only forgive Signer for the couple of failed attempts I had to listen to: this track is a perfect song mixing quality songwriting with the best in shoegazing, ethereal electronica and noisy pop.
Signer is now a band that is more song oriented than on previous efforts. With a little work, the superfluous will be scraped for the next album. And then, oh boy, it will be near impossible not to give in…
Available via Aim DistributionFrançois Monti