[4 June 2014]
I love Wang Chung’s album Mosaic, and have since I was a child. From “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” to “Hypnotize Me” to “Let’s Go!”, this is a blockbuster record wall to wall with hits. Michael McDonald sings on it too—what more could you want? Mosaic is just one of those records that ...
Wait a minute, I’m getting an e-mail from my editor here.
What’s that? We’re not reviewing Wang Chung’s 1986 masterwork, Mosaic? This is a different release?
Okay, then. The object up for review here is actually, as it turns out, the debut album for UK producer Ross Tones, who records under the moniker Throwing Snow. There is a commonality with Wang Chung, though, if not in album title, then in the fact that there’s a song here called “Hypnotise” (though not “Hypnotize Me”). And Throwing Snow isn’t even the only act releasing a Mosaic-themed album in June either. The Athens, Georgia, band Circulatory System is releasing Mosaics Within Mosaics later on in the month. So what can I say about the Throwing Snow record? Well, I have a love-hate relationship with it. The first couple of times I listened to the album, it didn’t really grab me, but by the third and fourth run-throughs, I was thinking that it’s pretty OK. But it does suffer from Special Guest Star Syndrome: seven out of the 11 tracks here feature guest vocalists (one called Kid A, natch) or groups working to hone Tones’ sound. And it is pretty collage-based, which would be apt for an album called Mosaic, but this lack of focus might be more of a distraction than anything else. A few of the tracks feature pretty minimal beats and sound fairly deep house, so if you’re into that sort of thing you’ve probably got a few records in your collection that do similar things in a little more fleshed out and, well, better way.
However, there are some treats on Mosaic. The first song, “Avarice”, is actually pretty nice when it isn’t rattling your speakers with garish keyboard sounds. With a vaguely Middle Eastern loop to open the track, it dovetails into swooping strings that are quite nice. “Pathfinder” is quite groovy as well, with a shuffling guitar line that feels remotely folk-like. This is a cut made for the dancefloor, and you can’t quite help but shaking your money-maker to it. It eventually dives into a futuristic vibe, which I have to admit is interesting. “Lingus” has the neat, experimental effect that makes it sound like the percussion was performed on a series of cans. It’s achingly beautiful. Closer “Saltare (Parts 1 & 2)” is quite house-y in the most classic sense, and it’s actually not too shabby of a song, even if it does reach past the seven-minute mark.
Noticing a trend here? These are all songs that don’t feature a guest star or much in the way of vocals, and I tended to find those to be the better songs. Particularly, “All the Lights”, which features Russell Morgan, is quite annoying as it simply just repeats the title as its constant refrain and is likely the weakest track on the album, even though it does feature some interesting slice ‘n’ dice percussion. In fact, there are no verses, just the dumb refrain “all the lights” repeated like a mantra. So what lights, I ask? I’m a little perplexed. “Draugr”, which features an outfit named KNOX, doesn’t really do anything for me, even if it does seem a little Blade Runner-obsessed. Meanwhile, “The Tempest”, which has Adda Kaleh and is tipped as the lead single from the LP, is a little too low key for its own good: it simply has her singing over a very bare bones beat. Next. The aforementioned “Hypnotise” reminds me a little of Enigma with its religious overtones. All it really needs is the Gregorian chanting to make it exactly like an Enigma rip-off.
By now, you’re probably getting the idea. The instrumental tracks are largely stellar, and the ones with vocal performances or guest stars, not so much. That makes Mosaic a rather haphazard and average at best listen. However, repeated listens do reveal some rewards, and this album isn’t a complete write-off, which is what I was initially planning on doing. There’s still enough stuff on this release to warrant a listen, even if it does seem a little all over the map stylistically. “Linguis” is worth the price of admission alone. So get this if you’re into experimental electronica with a smattering of house. For others, there are probably other, better albums best suited to your needs. Mosaic won’t make you forget that there are other albums with the same name, and it might not meet the same pop heights as a particular album I used to adore as a child, but it’s worthy of investigation and exploration for those who can’t get enough of this stuff. Even if it’s not Wang Chung. Not even close.