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Presence

All Systems Gone

(Ark 21)

Presence is a U.K.-based techno/soul group led by Charles Webster, a British musician who got his start as a club DJ in Nottingham. Other members include Shara Nelson and Sara Jay, both former members of Massive Attack. This is the group’s first album on Pagan Records; other groups on this label include House of 909 and Avatar.


All Systems Gone is truly an incredible album. My first impression was of a slightly more carefree version of Portishead, with maybe a little bit of Seal thrown in to boot. Both being British bands, perhaps it’s proper to say that Presence’s All Systems Gone is a good example of what is currently happening in the British dance scene. I certainly think so.


The only real problem with this group is their lyrics—they’re rather simple and undeveloped. I really can’t complain about them, though, because it just adds to the carefree nature of the songs. If all the words were really deep and significant, the driving ideas behind the songs might be jumbled. That is, the simplicity of the lyrics creates the easygoing nature of the songs.


Here’s an example from the first cut, “Future Love”: “My past love / Was so cold and insincere / When I needed a love to rely on / I looked around and no on was here.” Then he goes on to talk about how he’s taking care of himself, and he’s doing this for his future love. It’s kind of cute, and really helpful if you’ve just broken up with someone, but other than that the listener should really concentrate on the musical nature of the voices (which is great) and ignore the actual words.


The last song, “Far Far Away From My Heart,” is also kind of a breakup song. This one concerns getting drunk and smoking pot out of the depression from missing someone, which is cool, but it’s a huge contrast from “Future Love,” which is about staying healthy for the next lover. Weird!


All Systems Gone is a great chilling out album, and even acts as the appropriate accompaniment for sitting around mopey-faced. Get a group of friends together for this one, cuz it’s definitely music that needs a bunch of zoned out people sitting around bobbing their heads. Don’t use this to drive though—you’ll fall asleep.

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