It’s two years since the fifth album from Southampton based noise makers Superdrone. This three-piece thrilled us with their widescreen soundscapes and cinematic approach to songwriting. Moving into album six the band have taken the brave decision to release a 22-track double album. I asked the band about this decision and what we should expect from the album.
“This album has taken 18 months to record and these 22 songs were taken from over 100 demo ideas to ensure that the quality was rhodium standard. The sound design is in surround full HD audio. Headphones on. Hit play and drift away.”
Sounds right up my street, lets dive in.
We open with the title track. A psychedelic float in outer space. Digitized vocals emerge through a digital soundscape. We ain’t in Kansas anymore. It’s clear that Superdrone are eschewing their shoegaze roots and heading into pastures new.
‘Augmented Strings’ next has a touch of the Lemon Jelly about it. I could hear this playing at Café Del Mar at sunset. The chilled break beat carries the washed-out synth and syrupy sweet guitar along on a gentle wave.
With a neat bit of word play we’re into ‘Glass of Heart’. Fans of Beachy Head will love this track. Taking a straight up pop track and warping the strings and vocals adding this eerie, smoky texture to the whole song. It maintains that chillout vibe we enjoyed on the previous track.
The drums are the star on ‘Renegade’ next. This one reminds me of Seal or Neneh Cherry with its unusual time signature and eighties vibe. The soaring chorus with its warbling synths is just lush and you look forward to it each time.
We take the pace down on ‘Under the Dark Sky’. This is a grand track with all the feels. It takes the stadium sized power of Elbow and paints a psychedelic canvas with it. It’s spellbinding stuff.
We move into EDM next with ‘Onenia’. Programmed beats and vocoder vocals lead us through this pulsing and at times operatic ballad. The band have truly developed their pop sensibilities and really ran with it. As we progress through the album you can hear just how much effort has gone into this evolution, reinvention even of who Superdrone are.
More word-play next with ‘Incomplete Sympathy’ now dabbling in that trip hop sound that Bristol made so famous. I’m sure I can hear a Massive Attack sample in here which would make sense. If you’re a fan of Lamb or Portishead then you will love this one.
It’s back to psychedelic pop next with the lovely little song parcel that is ‘Loneliness’. I love the loose feel this one has. It just wraps you up in a sonic hug. Without a doubt my album highlight.
‘Too Far’ returns to trip hop and is reminiscent of a lost track by Lamb. Vocals on this one are beautiful. A lilting female voice, cuts through the psychedelic swirl elevating this to another level.
‘Home’ on the other hand is like something from the Blade Runner soundtrack. Bold and futuristic it’s a striking example of how this band have moved on. Digital bleeps and synth pads wash over the listener while the vocoder does its thing. Really enjoyed this track!
That old movie vibe is present in ‘Gnossienne No1’ next. A cover of the famous Erik Satie composition it’s warped and faded, as if played on an old gramophone. Piano is augmented synth and xylophone. It’s a most eerie and unusual intermission.
The band returns on ‘Plain Sight’. Pounding drums and chugging guitars drive this poppy wee number. There’s a Viva La Vida melody at play that adds an element of grandeur here. Tempered though by the psychedelic swirl of the vocals. This is a band not afraid to look to the Top 40 for influence.
‘Into the Ether’ emerges as if from a slumber. The dreamlike ambience it creates is magical. It sparkles through the speakers. Hushed vocals and chiming xylophone play over triggered samples and a steady rhythm section. Most soothing.
‘Overtonia’ channels the Chemical Bros and Kula Shaker into a tantric cyber jam. It’s a slow burner and blossoms over its run time before folding in on itself for the chilled outro.
‘California’ kicks off like a Luther Vandross number from the eighties. It’s smooth pop jazz sounds all the way until the chorus vocoder vocals reminds us who we’re listening to.
‘Bathed in Light’ is aptly named. It’s super bright tones and shimmering sounds really do evoke that title.
‘Clear Castles in the Sky’ samples a Radiohead riff from Kid A and builds a psychedelic maelstrom around it. There are these really lovely discordant moments that tickle my ear no end. I love how they just seem to fit under the pop of the songs lead melody.
That motif continues into the moody ballad that is ‘All You Need’. In one of this album’s sparser arrangements, sparse being a relative term here, the off-kilter moments are really impactful.
‘Discovery’ lifts us from our reverie with another sonic hug. The warm and uplifting vocals for me are only surpassed by the all too short instrumental break. Crackin track.
‘In the Fire’ feels like a continuation of ‘Discovery’. Like an aperitif as we head for the end of this album. The measured and patient drums play a blinder here. Picking out their own way through the song keeping us on our toes.
‘Someday’ brings together all the musical themes of the album into a dynamic explosion of sound. Again, wait until you here the drum solos before the big outro section. Exceptional stuff.
The album comes to a close with the suitably monikered ‘26’. Twenty-six minutes of ambient sounds and musical interludes is a bold choice as a closing number. It really is a soothing listen and rounds things off in a most interesting way.
The band promised that this would be something totally different. Those who listened to their last album and this would be surprised to hear they were the same band. A double album is a big ask for a listener and largely Superdrone have pulled it off with Stereoized. This set of songs has set them off on a new trajectory. Gone is the post rock / shoegaze sound replaced with an electronic trip pop groove. There’s a new more sedate EDM been created here and I’m really excited to hear where this takes Superdrone next.
Stereoized is out now over on Bandcamp.
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