Cambridge indie rockers Atomised (named after the edgy French novel by Michel Houellebecq?) release their new album ‘Virtual Strangers’, a follow-up to ‘Dreamlands’ from 2008. They are an accomplished six-piece band, producing an intense and multi-faceted sound.
The opening track is the curiously named ‘Tinselhead’, a guitar driven relentless blaster, setting the agenda for this varied collection of songs.
‘Slipping On Tightropes’ is more mellow, sounding like it could belong comfortably in the Suede back-catalogue. As on many of these tracks the many and subtle guitar effects are meticulously crafted. A title like ‘Fading Polaroid’ is suitably evocative for probably my favourite piece on the album, with a piano line underpinning a touching love song, strongly vocalised by Andrew Ashworth.
‘Virtual Strangers’ is the epic cinematic title track, at nearly seven minutes the different sections describe how our life is driven by modern digital technology ‘zeros and ones…changes our lives’ . It is all a bit bleak lyrically but strangely powerful and addictive (and just when you are feeling alienated a trumpet line soars across the mix to give hope..). In these days of bland lyrics from so many performers it is always refreshing to hear something more reflective/incisive/political.
‘Why Can’t We Be Lovers?’ is the impassioned vocal plea on the next track over a dense but well-balanced backing. ‘Impossible World’ is a quieter contrast, until an explosive drum break takes the sound into a different direction. The album closes with the acoustic country-rock of ‘We’re OK’, an optimistic counterpoint to some of the themes that have come before.
Overall, a very impressive achievement, with some of the 80s and 90s influences distilled into a bold set of ambitious well-produced songs.
Just north of Cambridge, in the village of Waterbeach, the unassuming ‘Sun Inn’ is host to some well-kept ales and also a well-kept secret…there is some great music being made in the upstairs gig room. The ‘Beach Sessions’ bring together a mix of local acts, carefully curated for their musical distinctiveness.
The room was packed to the rafters from the start for the opening act The British IBM. A favourite of mine and the incentive for the trip, they were playing a moody and thoughtful set, with just acoustic guitar and bass as accompaniment to the intense vocals of Adrian Killens. On the albums, the complex strings and drum arrangements work well, but stripped down the lyrics and sentiments take centre stage. ‘Nothing Ever Lasts That Long’ is an outsider’s desolation and ‘We Were The Stars’ and ‘The British IBM’ are still subtle but powerful anthems and close the set tonight.
Atomised are a six-piece Indie-rock band with roots in the 80s and 90s sounds of Echo and The Bunnymen, REM, Sisters Of Mercy and Simple Minds. A prestigious pedigree then, and with the excellent sound quality in this venue tonight (there is an enormous mixing desk at the back…) their sound is clear and multi-layered, with keyboard textures and lots of stirring guitar and strong lead vocals. Many of the tracks played were from their album ‘Dreamlands’, with a new one due out this year.
The memorably named Creepy Neighbour finished the show, even more people crammed in and there was a real sense of anticipation. With two members of the band soon leaving to be part of Mika’s touring band the musicianship was spot-on, with pure ethereal vocals from Max Taylor over some eighties popstyled keyboards, bass and guitar. It was a punchy and sharp performance and as the dry ice filled the room we realised that we had seen a storming show (and it was free?!). Roll on the next one…