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"Turn All Memory to White Noise"

Laki Mera – Turn All Memory to White Noise
18 July 2013, 11:30 Written by Chris Tapley

Glasgow trio Laki Mera make music which could objectively be labelled as beautiful. It swoons and flutters and builds to graceful little peaks. It’s lovely stuff. Like many things which receive unanimous nods of aesthetic appreciation though, it also struggles to exert any real character beyond that.

Now on their third album and with almost ten years together, little has changed for Laki Mera’s sound. They continue to be a band who seem very invested in the technical aspects of their craft, making highly methodical music which sprouts from trip-hop and folktronica while incorporating strong elements of classical and industrial sounds. It’s the sort of delicately creepy music that Portishead perfected in the 90′s (and which sounds as if it’s trapped in that decade). The album opens with measured marching drums, setting up a tension which is quickly relieved by the winsome and organic vocals of Laura Donnelly; a polarity between her delivery and the synthetic instrumentation is awkwardly thread through most of the album. Her voice holds real emotional resonance but is rarely allowed to flourish as it gets bogged down by rigid plodding arrangements of minimal electronics, with overly sumptuous strings tacked on to everything.

Things keep to a fairly placid pace from the beginning, ‘Red Streak Cut Sky’ broods slowly with plastic strings and oblique lyrics offering up all the cartoon rendered menace of a Tim Burton creation. The ominous music-box murmurs of ‘Red Eyes’ are gently absorbing, delicately poised over feathered beats which actually provide some flow, and these occasional breaks from slow/no tempo come as welcome changes; the IDM bop of ‘All I Have’ also displays a lightness of touch they could use more often and the restrained 80′s thrusts of ‘Winter (There’s A Light)’ and ‘In Tunnel’ inject a bit of energy into the album which is all too brief. Closer ‘Keep Me Safe’ has gorgeous ornate guitar strums and minimal percussion, but again rings completely hollow with it’s pristine production leveling out any sense of potency.

This is the main problem here, everything is too exceptionally produced, this album is spotless; not a note out of place. Nothing touches the red. There is no subtlety and no bombast, just a barren landscape of in-between. Each movement is painstakingly choreographed, and after a while it sounds empty and synthetic; its humanity lost amid clicks and hums and reproductions of human emotion. It is the kind of album which would still be allowed to exist in a futuristic dictatorship shorn of culture, because nobody is going to feel anything after listening to such a sedate adornment of noises.

Turn All Memory to White Noise is technically accomplished, but it lacks any edge whatsoever. Every single song here could soundtrack the hell out of a car advert or provide incidental music for a sobering documentary, but as a stand-alone listen it really struggles. It’s a shame, because Laki Mera continue to be a very promising band, but this is all just so po-faced and ruthlessly efficient that it’s impossible to get excited about. The vocals are lovely, you could eat your dinner off the production, but more often than not the songs themselves are just entirely forgettable, and subsequently so are Laki Mera.

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