Tom Middleton: Lifetracks

[22 January 2008]

By Mike Schiller

It’s a struggle to come up with anything to describe Tom Middleton’s Lifetracks because the album fails at every turn to be a moving experience. Middleton is one half of duo Global Communication, who blessed us with the wonderful 76:14, which is at turns beautiful and strange. On Lifetracks, however, Middleton seems to be striving for merely beautiful. This would be fine in and of itself, except that Middleton goes for this ideal via a somewhat Moby-esque (perfect for car commercials and cafés) kind of ambience that can’t help but disappoint his listeners given his history. “Shinkansen” begins with the sort of high-pitched bell synth and nature sound combo that pushes the music toward the new age label, eventually progressing into an utterly unoffensive lite-techno piece complete with bendy basslines and modulating sequencer work. “Moonbathing” is as lush as its title suggests, with piano chords and hollow melody lines occasionally giving way to guitar-generated textures underneath a Weather Channel beat, while “Sea of Glass” tries desperately to make two repeated piano notes interesting by way of string synths and some more high bells. The only truly moving moment to be found on the entire album lies at the end of the final track, “Enchanting”, where a wall of synths gives way perfectly to an unconventional downtempo beat surrounded entirely by silence. Regrettably, on an album that surpasses 69 minutes, this beautiful little moment happens about 67 minutes too late.

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