Chapter number four, aptly titled FOUR, in Charlotte Church’s five-part EP saga has been described by the Church herself as ‘cruisewave’, with the notion of it being “like futuristic driving music”. Where EP two (funnily enough, called TWO) lingered in gothic electro-pop realms – see: “Glitterbombed” and it’s raven-feathered tearjerk malarkey – and numero tres was a vibrant hodgepodge of stylistic traits, FOUR feels like an abrupt ramping-up towards a thrilling payoff, surely in the form of FIVE, in the not-too-distant future. It’s a sharp jolt of roided power, a penultimatum, a point of no return. Even in the softer minutes, it’s marching towards the inevitable conclusion.
In those softer minutes, like “Hood Shade”, propulsive rhythms physically drive the action onwards. “Hood Shade”’s a distorted, weathered R&B effort with Church’s typical belt-to-the-rafters vocal perfection and gospel choirs. There’s saucy ’90s sitcom-jazz sax, a guitar solo that can only be described as arrogant and full-force AC blasts of cool funk bass. Somehow, this grandiose concoction is a softer minute. The post-rock “Love”, riddled with chopped, sampled vox and grinding Nine Inch Nails axes, cooing angelics and devilish bombast, is again, somehow softer than much of the hefty EP.
Opener “Entanglement” wields a rugged krautrock-cum-hair metal gauche motorik. Nestled amongst the percussive thicket are grand stings of noise and guitars bending to Church’s vocal whims. While the music’s a commanding force, without Church’s impeccable, soaring words it wouldn’t be half as taut. The Foals-aping “Death and Mathematics”, stuffed with clarinets and a riff that sounds kinda like the one in “Sex On Fire”, trundles along calmly, mimicking chilled-out lounge dance. It’s intense in a different way to, say, “Entanglement” – you’ll find yourself captured by its hypnotic aura.
All in all, this is an anthology of crisp, classy ’80s pop-rock and ’90s dance. There’s a pent-up energy throughout, exploding in random but controlled bursts, that hints towards the direction of the final puzzle piece in the concept EP series. It’s less haphazard, more focused than prior instalments, and it feels like a release that fills in the gaps of the other EPs, bridging genre gaps and bringing everything to a head in preparation for FIVE. On its own, FOUR contains some stunning efforts and ambitious experiments pulled off hitchlessly, but to appreciate the full impact, it’s best viewed in the wider context of the whole series released so far.