Talk Less, Say More - Go Lucky

Tim Miller 04/09/2008

Rating: 3.5/5

When you're about to consider a release from an unknown guitarist who hails from a previous incarnation involving the words 'Leeds', 'metal' and 'pranksters', Go Lucky is not the typical record you would imagine. Matthew Jennings, aka 'Jell', is (confusingly) the person behind this album, an LP that ambiguously straddles dub, electronica and an abundance of alternative snippets in between.

Go Lucky begins with the minimal string-tinted electro of 'The Battle of Borodino', Jennings's layered vocals hinting on the side of synthetic yet still strong and ethereal. A song about sunshine, which paradoxically only emerges briefly in the form of a folky guitar sample, the opener is a wintry introduction that sets a haunting and ultimately rewarding tone.

'Up Close, Far Away' touches vaguely on trip hop, skipping between tinkling bells and warm jangling cycles of guitars and more austere moments of sombre vocals over hypnotic drum patterns. Jennings seems to halt in committing too many eggs to a basket, leaving the atmosphere somewhat sparse and coming on strong in moments. It's effective though, and 'Sensations Spring' sees an all-too-fleeting arrangement of cellos give heart to a fragile foundation of tinny drum and bass. It's that uncertain nod towards trip hop again, as if Jennings's ideas of real emotion don't quite sit with their electronic realisation.

Unconvincing though this sounds, truth be told hats should be doffed to a record so understated, sometimes just mantra-esque vocals sitting on a gloomy dub bass drum, that achieves such a haunting atmosphere and moments of poignancy as if from nowhere. The only occasions on which parts of Go Lucky differ are midpoint 'Roots Alive', a much dirtier affair with scuzzy guitar licks and clattering drums, and 'Pillowtalk', lolling piano-driven pop that unexpectedly transforms into a buzzing electro outro. The LP ends on a high with 'Life in Cold Blood', guitars echoing upwards and artificial chimes acclaiming the album with a characteristic lack of authority that seems representative of Go Lucky.

While his lyrics reflect the many moods of love and rejection with not a little obscurity, Jennings's vocals are reminiscent of black singers like Kele Okereke or Dev Hynes, distinctive and likeable, and it is slightly surprising to find he isn't. As an entity, in fact, Go Lucky is something like the dreams of Burial as lived out by Lightspeed Champion, honest pallid soundscapes hijacked by a mischievous alternative scamp. Without concentration, this LP starts to pale too close to insignificance even as background music but while it won't be to everyone's liking, Go Lucky is nevertheless an album of elegiac beauty.

Released 4 August 2008