FIRST PUBLISHED AT THE LINE OF BEST FIT
Back to the future
‘Your Ear Knows Future’ is the sophomore effort from Baikonour – aka Brighton’s French-born Jean-Emmanuel Kreiger – a veritable one-man band whose debut ‘For the Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos‘ was a heady blend of space rock and electronica. Where that first record was indebted to prog and Krautrock, ‘Your Ear Knows Future”s only noticeable change in direction is the additional demployment of 80s indie textures. After a rumbling, would-be ominous ‘Intro’, the opener ‘Shikarettes & Khukuris’ bursts into life with a reverbed guitar strum that recalls prototype shoegazers A.R. Kane (the band for whom the term ‘Oceanic’ was coined) quickly subsumed by Baikonour’s familiar take on psychedelia. Most of the tracks are underpinned by this New Order/Jesus & Mary Chain jangle but all revert to a default prog vacuity: all Celestial Synths (TM), steady crescendos and other cod-mystical devices.
‘Chiru’ oscillates between cock-rocking riffs and instrumental passages that suggest 12-inch versions of Cure songs circa ‘Disintegration’ or Mary Chain derivatives like The Cranes. Bridging the expanse between these two styles are some New Age atmospherics, and while the transitions are made with a fluidity and dynamism the track still strikes me as rather unsubtle in its showy eclecticism. While the quickie ‘Double Happiness Wholesale’ vaguely resembles M83′s synthesized shoegaze, ‘Ye Ama Piaooo!’ meanders through several passages of meaningful moodiness -warped chimes, more ominous bass – before some thundering Hawkwind-esque one-chord guitars and Krautrock percussion courtesy of Lee Adams from Fujiya & Miyagi. Things peak and dip, swirl and chug like this for a good five minutes – and it’s very nice but totally unsurprising. The beginning of ‘Summer Grass/Winter Warm’ is almost redolent of Boards of Canada’s cassette warped nostalgic dissonance, but glossier, texturally facile, and quickly drowned in sub-Vangelis synths. I have no problem listening to an album entirely comprising instrumentals but it says a lot to me that some of the tracks feel as if they are missing vocals. The very fact that the word ‘instrumental’ comes to my head when listening to Baikonour – as opposed to, say, ‘track’ – seems to suggest an absence or incompleteness.
Baikonour is certainly not the first electronica act to dabble with post-rock, prog, Krautrock or 80s indie – and while he may one of few to try them all at once – ‘Your Ear Knows Future’ never feels like more than a sum of its constituent parts. While he renders his influences with obvious skill he employs the textures with a one-dimensional predictability. The layering of atmospherics is entirely underwhelming, chugging along with an unfulfilled sense of purposefulness; without enough rough edges to counter the consummate smoothness of the production. I can imagine some of this being knocked up in a BBC workshop under the remit: ‘make something really cosmic and dramatic sounding by Friday, please’. It’s all very professional sounding, but there are no new ideas here – just the conviction that disparate music styles from the past automatically sound fresh when blended together. They may have done when ‘For the Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos’ was released, they don’t anymore. If Your Ear Knows Future – it isn’t Baikonour.