Oddly, no one ever draws pictures for a book which hasn’t been written. Declare you were thinking about it and people would probably stop. Stare. Point. Laugh. Quietly hide the scissors. But announce you’re recording the soundtrack to an imaginary film and people nod sagely. “Yeah” they say. “You go right ahead”. Why? You’re still just making shit up. Don’t add substance to the delusion, people. The first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Still, it definitely helps if your imaginary film is good and not an imaginary sequel to Transformers taking care to ensure Michael Bay’s imaginary legacy is maintained.
Neil Rudd, the man behind Eat Lights Become Lights, has said that Heavy Electrics is the soundtrack to an imaginary film. A film which seems pretty good. Exhilarating and laden with the atmosphere of grimy smears of neon peeking through smog draped industrial skylines, while oppressed people go about their business under the watchful eye of evil corporations with nefarious plans to crush rebellion with ruthless precision.
Sort of like Blade Runner? Well, yes. Rudd has admitted its influence on Heavy Electrics. Which is sensible, given it’s hard to even look at a vintage synth without someone accusing you of aping Vangelis. But next to the generally cinematic feel, there’s a deep-seated love of krautrock, especially the more electro-leaning kosmische bands. So perhaps Blade Werker would be a bit more accurate.
Far more important than the list of sound-a-bit-likes is that fact that Heavy Electrics takes the influences and goes somewhere with them. And there’s definitely a feeling of going here – the relentless motorik beat and general air of wanderment see to that. But if Heavy Electrics is a journey, the most interesting bits are when it gets a little waylaid, the race for the horizon tempered by the fact we’re totally sodding lost.
The eerie prongs of creeping suspicion that prickle across ‘Syd Mead Cityscape’, as synth sweeps cut through the darkness like flashlights in an abandoned morgue; the swells of ‘Sunrise At Mawar Junction’ that languidly pulsate, as if catching a breath behind a dumpster, before rolling in glittering keys and a simple guitar line that seems to endlessly evolve in front of your ears: they sound exploratory, yearning to discover something more. It’s humanising, and also has the effect of coagulating some of those Germanic bloodlines. Because while those links suggest an associated minimalism and icy, robotic precision, here there’s more warmth. This is music made by humans, not by replicants.
A good thing. Because it helps elevate Heavy Electrics to something beyond any accusations of mere pastiche, into an album you long to stick on the stereo as you jump in your spaceship and head out on an intergalactic road trip. Or get the bus to Wandsworth. Roll on the imaginary sequel.