Album: Robin Guthrie

Imperial, Bella Union

Friday 21 March 2003 01:00

Since the Cocteau Twins packed up their pearly dewdrops and called it a day, Robin Guthrie has busied himself steering his Bella Union label's cadre of left-field post-rockers, a catalogue that includes Lift to Experience, Dirty Three, Kid Loco, Rothko, and most recently the admirable Devics. Surprisingly, this is Guthrie's first solo album since the Cocteaus' dissolution seven long years ago, a collection of soothing instrumentals that reflects the tranquillity of his studio in the French countryside. The title track is typical: a slow, formal development of heavily chorus-effected guitar chords floating in cavernous reverb, infinitely patient, infinitely absorbing, with the merest tick of rimshot and hi-hat seeping in toward the end. In the aptly titled "Freefall", descending keyboard figures float like duckdown on a still day, while "Thunderbird Road" and "Music for Labour" feature sheets of shimmering guitar bathed in reverb, strongly reminiscent of Durutti Column or a less floridly Eastern Popol Vuh, though clearly the product of a more reflective north-European sensibility. The most appealing piece is probably "Tera", in which looping keyboard surges gently alongside measured guitar, over the tiniest of glitchy rhythm tracks. It's perfect bathtime candles-and-wine music, a big warm hug of an album that oozes away stress. Recommended for aromatherapists and masseurs. And dopeheads, of course.

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