[31 October 2005]
There is music that grabs your attention by the roots of your hair; by electrifying your intellect, by insulting your soul or by shoving a whopper of an adrenaline-filled syringe into your rump. The Remote Viewer do not make music with this in mind. Rather, the German trio behind this record knit together little cosies of sound, quaint weavings of fragile comfort that fail to impinge with any great force upon the conscious eardrum. Instead, their compositions become most evident as they disintegrate into the air; their absence a stronger force than their presence, like the aura of a pale beam of sunshine that filled up the other end of the room before it was suddenly hidden by a cloud.
Those expecting the more weird, warped and recalcitrant end of City Centre Office’s peculiar little sound realm—hip-hop hodgepodge for the heart, often with an ambient glow and sugar dustings of delightfully naive little melodies—will be disappointed, although given the lighter-than-summer-breeze bleeping of the then-duo’s last record, Here I Go Again On My Own, that’s only to be expected. However, the first sound you hear on the album is a deep subdued bass tone, and if the sonic panorama is still minimal there is now something full-bodied to the piano, bass and guitar recordings as they trail through touches of percussion, glitchy drifts of dust, and little splurts of static that resolve into peaceful chatter before melting away . . . There’s a mute strength implicit in the way the instruments have been recorded in microscopic warts’n'all clarity, as though one member of the group played as quietly and respectfully as they could whilst another held the microphone scarce millimeters away from the cradling, caressing fingers. Given the resultant richness of tone from each note played, the full frequency spectrum is covered and the tracks are resonant in their simplicity rather than sparse; bare strumming having replaced barely-there twinkling to a certain degree.
If this conjures up slow motion, minimum focus folktronica, then it should be added that a few of the tracks now feature singing, one by the mademoiselle alone, several by the guys, and a couple in concert. Well, perhaps singing is exaggerating slightly; whispering and murmuring (for the most part) indistinctly is more accurate, although this does mark a step in the direction implied by such touchingly able “song” titles as “Last Night You Said Goodbye, Now It Seems Years”, the slightly more aggressively morose “The Fucking Bleeding Hearts Brigade” and the wistful “It’s So Funny How We Don’t Talk Anymore”. The latter takes a plaintively naive piano motif that falters along like an uncertain kitten, interweaves it with an immense soft comforter of a bassline and then employs an artfully vocodered vocal like a melancholy feather duster, stroking the edges into a pretty blur. You could probably capture the track as notation in about twenty notes, yet as music the whole possesses a breathtaking poignancy that impacts on the nostalgia glands with the patina of a long-thought-lost photo album, but with the force of a body blow. Attempting to capture the effect in words renders me as helpless as the track itself; suffice to say the only way you’d get my fingers to turn it off or down would be by removing my hand for your own foul purposes, Demolition Man-stylee.
That’s the high point of an album that features “I’m Sad Feeling!” and ends on “How Did You Both Look Me In The Eye?” but is actually far too subdued to live up to its own excitable punctuation, never mind my occasionally unpleasantly graphic imagination. Too withdrawn and patient for the mainstream our trio might be, and effervescently brilliant they will probably never become, but this is an intimate and mature record that presents its bittersweet vulnerability with increasing confidence.