Sophomore albums are always a difficult feat for independent artists, and a sophomore album slated to be released almost 10 years after the first is indeed a rare thing to accomplish. The Chemistry Experiment (which, by the way, is comprised of four members who are outspread between the U.K and Italy) has apparently taken on these challenges with remarkable aptitude evidenced by the creation of mysteriously titled album, Gongs Played by Voice. This album’s sound is roughly “indie” with an odd tinge of the liturgical. Initially the songs may be described by a listener as “dreamy”, however upon closer inspection one may note the tones to be much more suited for an idyllic vision of the afterlife: choral and hymn-like with a perpetual organ groaning in the cloudy distance. Most of the time, their musical approach is fresh and does much to extend beyond certain overworked aspects of the current “indie pop” scene, or at least The Chemistry Experiment does these tropes (I’m thinking of their moments of whimsical synth-laser sound, or overt attempts at “weird”) stylistically well .
I was first impressed by the vocal breadth of this album, the tracks are peppered with everything from femme-whisperers (fans of Warpaint will enjoy these moments), deeply bizarre baritone (a vocal style which is confirmed to be heavily influenced by Leonard Cohen by their cover of “Story of Isaac”), to the use of Laurie Anderson-esq robotic distortions crescendoing through the closing track “A Good Wind”. Though the melodically slavering baritone is especially prevalent throughout the album, every other voice slips through tracks with a significance that should not be ignored (at least until you are distracted by one of several laser-blast sound cameos which frequently aparate through the songs ). Lyrically, Gongs Played by Voices creates ample opportunity for vocals to explore their scope. “Leo the Magician” makes good use of The Chemistry Experiment’s vocal strength by carving uniquely recognizable characters for its strange narrative, spinning the track into a scene stamped with the wax and wane of spinning psychedelic guitar.
After researching this group a bit more, I wasn’t surprised to discover their “Prog” rock background. The traces of this past can be felt in their guitar: it’s unhinged at the wires and the guitarist seems a meek officiant to its whims. This album is unafraid of the electronic organ, and while it is amply employed to flesh out the more “experimental” or adventuresome songs, sometimes the organ colors a track or two with a few corny, old-time-religion-ish shadows. Rhythmically this album stays simple, harbouring deftly concise beats that yield respectfully to the psychedelic undertow and vocal importance of the songs. Electronically the album wavers, like certain sci-fi movies, it seems like they could have been a bit more choosy with the special effects. However, where the album remains recognizably instrumental, it commands a well-woven strength of craftsmanship that is especially alluring.
Gongs Played By Voice is out January 5th via Fortuna POP!