Weaver's confidence is well-earned and it is a satisfying spectacle that a rather underappreciated artist should find her moment nearly 25 years into her career.
Modern Kosmology opens with "H>A>K" and a tension-building and almost creepy pulse. Within about a minute, the synth is accompanied by a vocal melody, acoustic drumming, and then a repeating electronic loop. The song curves and slopes gently, more cool and forbearing than bracing. It is an apt song to lead off the album because for the duration of its running time Modern Kosmology feels like a single unbroken series of shifting melodies in constant motion, its electronic and organic elements shaped, combined, and layered in a kaleidoscopic manner. It is an achievement of synthesis, cohesion, and craft.
From a historical point of view, Weaver's influences seem to reach back through at least two decades of British rock, pop, and electronic music. From a songwriting and songcraft point of view, she leafs through these influences in a breezy and unselfconscious manner. This impression stands to reason -- since 1993, and with a series of alt-rock and electronic projects, she participated in and helped to develop some of these sounds at their origin. So she is both picking up threads left by others as well as reclaiming some of her own.
Her shared history with Doves from Manchester is a good jumping-off point for getting a grip on the cascading sounds and styles folded into Modern Kosmology. As with Doves, synths and electronic elements, house, and a particularly English approach to alternative dance music assume roles that are both apparent and conspicuous as well as latent and subtle. On "The Architect" they are front and center, giving the song an almost straightforward EDM-like feel. They appear with a light touch too on, for example, "Did You See the Butterflies?", with electronic flourishes punctuating the mood and the momentum of the song.
The most satisfactory combination of these tendencies appears on the title track. It is certainly reminiscent of Doves, and English indie rock of the 2000s in general, in the yearning and the earnestness of its own drama. And like Doves, it looks back to Madchester and to electronic music of the 1990s. But historically all of these qualities belong equally to Weaver as they do to Doves; and Modern Kosmology at times makes a case that Weaver surpasses even Doves at messaging these sounds into a single cohesive creative statement. Songs like "Modern Kosmology" and "Slow Motion" are not history essays, although they will allow for such readings. For the most part they will simply invite listeners to move and to feel.
The electronic and British indie rock leanings appear alongside other prominent psychedelic and folk influences. "Valley" opens with nature sounds and a simple guitar arpeggio, a violin, and organ pulses as Weaver's voice -- not an overpowering instrument, and not overpowering in the mix -- drifts gently along with the melody until the song languidly evolves into a spacy Hawkwind-influenced lullaby. In another highlight, "Ravenspoint" follows seamlessly with some narration about the transience of life and then melts into the haziest psychedelic moment on the record.
These elements are never disparate in Weaver's hands, and at all points Modern Kosmology feels like a single inspired continuum of pop songs. The confidence Weaver exhibits in holding them together in balance is well-earned and it is a satisfying spectacle that a rather underappreciated artist should find her moment nearly 25 years into her career.