Recorded under the name of the noises we make when no one is around (a name that aside from being wordy, seems quite appropriate), the music of Briton Craig Taylor-Broad reminds me not just slightly of the depressing folk-like music of American project Giles Corey. Though I could point out that Taylor-Broad’s material is rather downbeat however, I’d be more inclined to label noises we make... as being spooky and eerie, with androgynous, uneasy vocals being heard over solemn and mournful acoustic guitar strumming. Since the musical elements are so very low-key, it’s actually the troubled (and troubling) narrative of the singer and gloomy ambiance present in the project’s debut release the black box contained nothing but our deaths that makes the strongest impression on the listener. Without doubt, this is music designed to creep out a listener.
The album’s first track is the aptly-named “playing ghost,” a moderately-paced number heavy on the echo. There’s a really nice sense of progression and buildup in the guitar and vocal parts, and the slightly hissy sound quality actually enhances the overall effect of the track. “empty houses” is perhaps an even more unsettling number since the deliberately plucked guitar and cooing, haunting vocals surround a listener in a thick fog of despair. Building out of a base of bleak, ominous sound, “three years” climaxes with groaning, and shrieking backing voices heard over another deceptively simple combination of guitar and lead vocal. By far the most lengthy and substantive track on the release, final track “black box” is probably the most straight-forward here. Focusing more on the screeches and creaks that the acoustic guitar is emitting while being played rather than on its actual tones, the track fades out with a finale of shrieking, other-worldly sounds.
It’s pretty amazing how full this release sounds despite there only being a handful of things heard at any one time. Taylor-Broad really does a nice job with the lo-fi production and recording and I’d almost say the engineering is as important as any of the musical ingredients of the album. Clearly, black box... is much more about mood and atmosphere than much of anything else, but the actual songwriting on display here is excellent and features lyrics that are full of compelling imagery. Though this music isn’t perhaps something that would appeal to the general listener, it’s quite easy to get drawn into into the shadowy, paranoiac netherworld in which Taylor-Broad’s music takes place. Highly recommended...especially around Halloween time.
8.5 / 10
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