ISAN Meet Next Life

[Morr; 2004]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: electronic post-rock, electronic prog rock
Others: Manual, Boards of Canada, Autechre, Mum, Four Tet

Meet Next Life sounds like an album that was recorded years ago. And it's no coincidence: ISAN (short for Integrated Services Analogue Network) prefers outdated instruments as opposed to the latest hi-fi gear. But instead of pining for the days before amplification became the name of the game, the duo of Antony Ryan and Robin Saville stay relatively close to the present, employing analogue keyboards, ageing drum computers, opened-up circuit boards, and old synthesizers. Despite their effort to challenge themselves by circuit-bending dated equipment, the music itself sounds dated.

Simply put: Meet Next Life is a frustrating listen. With banal chord progressions, incessant 4/4 beats, and insipid melodies, Meet Next Life is marred with everything that makes this musical style played out. Not even its bubbling electronics and roaring dynamics could save the album. ISAN sound like a really bad electronic Mogwai cover band, and it shows in almost every minute on the album. Although some moments are worthy of repeated listens, most of the album is essentially for one time usage. Rule of thumb: no matter how many bells and whistles added to a song, it won't cover up weak songwriting.

But this is perhaps where subjectivity rings loudest. If you'll allow me to self-indulge, I feel as if the only thing this album helped me realize is how jaded critics can become. After listening to so many albums of similar makeup, it's only natural for a critic to crap on the followers rather than the leaders. But I'm willing to bet fans of this musical style would treasure this album. So, where does this leave us? Well, just like any other review: this reviewer doesn't like this album. You might.

1. Birds Over Barges
2. First Date-Jumble Sale
3. One Man Abandon
4. Gurnard
5. The Race to Be First Home
6. Gunnera
7. Iron Eyes
8. Snowdrops and Phlox
9. Willowy
10. Sat 73
11. Slow Bulb Slippage
12. Meet Next Life