With a name that’s likely to prove popular with a certain vintage of British gentleman, The British Expeditionary Force have the WWII-related music market, and unwieldy band names crown, all sewn up. The latter is hardly a surprise given that one of the band used to be in really-quite-hard-to-write Yourcodenameis:Milo. With that band on indefinite/permanent hiatus, guitarist Justin Lockey launched The BEF and released the first part of a planned trilogy of albums in 2007 with Chapter One: A Long Way From Home. Much more experimental than his previous outfit, the record could be filed along with the likes of 65 Days of Static and other electronic/post-rock outfits such as Codes in the Clouds. Four years down the line and The BEF return with Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu, a record that fittingly enough for a band on Erased Tapes mixes electro, post-rock, choral and classic influences to decent effect.
Justin is joined by his brother James and singer Aid Burrows on Chapter Two, the album being recorded in a single room compared to the exchange of music over the internet that formed the first chapter. The positive effects of this move are evident from the start: it’s a generally confident, warm and organic record despite its groundings in electronics and being created by guys with backgrounds in science and physics. The record progresses as a natural piece, so it’s perhaps not ideal to dissect, song by song, something that’s meant to be consumed in one sitting. However, you can hear that things are nicely paced: gentle opener ‘Commotion’ mixes choral vocals with burbling electronics, and fades out and into the calm beginnings of ‘When All Of This Is Done’. That track sparks into life on classic skyscraping post-rock guitars and juddering percussion, but rather than expand out endlessly it benefits from stopping succinctly at around 4 minutes.
Elsewhere, ‘Cogs and Chemicals’ mixes industrial beats with Mark Gardener-esque shoegaze vocals to create something rather wonderful, ‘Konstellation Neu’ is a jittery lullaby with looped stabs of piano and ‘Crack In The Clouds’ is all glitchy and glacial Kid A rhythms. Once this slower section of the record is over, things pick up again with the slow-build then choral explosion of ‘Strange Aftertaste’, again benefitting from packing its epic math-rock into a short running time. Not everything works mind you: ‘Pleasantly Confused’ seems to be aiming for bucolic but ends up being a drab acoustic strum and ‘Where You Go I Will Follow’ and ‘End Music’ come as close to coffee-table indietronica as you get. That’s the danger with records like this: if you hit autopilot and go for “mood” over anything else then the music can sometimes suffer.
So, not an entirely successful record, but Chapter Two improves on part one, and it’s clear that The British Expeditionary Force are a better band than the majority – if not all – of the outfits that Justin Lockey has been involved in before now. Still a work in progress, but should Chapter Three continue the upward curve then – prog tendencies aside – it’ll be worth listening out for.