James Welch has finally given us the long-awaited companion piece to Seams‘s 2010 sonic puzzle, Tourist, by completing the circuit with the equally vital Sleeper EP, to form his first riveting full-length for Full Time Hobby. And while the two pieces are split at the middle and form two very disparate movements both musically and in mood, together they represent a strong semblance of a whole that boldly announces the highly anticipated arrival of Seams to the electronic music world.
The first half of this release is comprised of four tracks that the Hampshire-born Welch created while he was in Berlin a few years back, and while these numbers lack the modern flourishes of the newer songs that finish out the record, they still bristle with the energy and exploration that good travel often brings. The album begins with the bustling found sounds and voices of ‘Hung Markets’, everyday din that could be an airport, a park, or a grocery store, any place that only seems thrilling to out-of-towners or children. Welch builds on that quotidian electricity by crafting a vibrant soundscape on top of those loose ideas, immersing himself and listener even further into undiscovered territory.
‘Carnival’ is merely a trifling segue (again using indistinct, warped voices to personalise the piece) to the far more accomplished ‘Nachtmusik’, a rich, stunning number that features a laid back, late-night rhythm and distinctly modern beats. The tourist at this point in the journey has finally arrived at the party, and it’s awash with the dynamic pulse of life itself. The hypnotic grooves make you at once feel that this is a familiar, welcoming place, while also making clear that you’ve never come this particular way before. ‘Platz’ closes out the first half of this release strongly, and once again draws on the exhilarating swing of the sounds of the city, with laughter augmenting the spare percussion and subtle electronic buzz, which grows in potency as the song gradually reaches its peak.
Sleeper kicks off with the ominous drone of ‘The Glow’, which certainly differentiates itself from the more upbeat, buoyant numbers featured throughout Tourist. And when the track breaks down at the two minute mark, the moody bass line is quite reminiscent of the smoother moments of Radiohead’s ‘Lotus Flower’ before Thom gets all wonky. ‘Potential’ keeps the compact, taut nature of the second half going, but the chopped vocal samples ultimately prove too distracting to make any real connection with the colorful beats Welch is generating in the background.
‘Punch’ gets things headed back in the right direction, as the track slowly builds to a fidgety two-step that is both intoxicating and imaginative. The slow-burning closer ‘The Long Wait’ is perhaps poking fun at Welch’s fans who have been pining for a full-length from him since they first got a listen to his stylish initial releases. And while it perhaps takes a while for Sleeper to get there, the rising rhythms and siren-like electronic wail that erupts towards the middle of ‘The Long Wait’ suggests that the captivating, exhilarating festivities found at the heart of ‘Nachtmusik’ are ready to start up once again. Hopefully next time Seams just won’t take as long in showing us the way to get back there.
Listen to Tourist/Sleeper