I Am A Man With A St. Tropez Tan - Debut
Owain Paciuszko 11/09/2010
Rick Senley is the man behind the lengthy moniker (Let's call him IAAMWASTT for short), and this 12 track debut record opens with menacing synths, processed beats and snatches of dialogue that winds up feeling like a dance remix of room recordings at a seance. In comparison the echoey synth lines of The Happiest Smile of the Year feel positively joyous, there is a kind of faint optimism to the tune which is oddly reminiscent of Ira Newborn's score to Planes, Trains and Automobiles, except here combined with drum loops.
The cinematic feel continues with the Craig Armstrong-like opening to Get Off Me, I Will Kill You mixing tender piano and strings with descending bass notes and clippy percussion. It remains languishing in kind of a slurry of sound and doesn't really travel far beyond its initial ideas, the same can be said for How Many Days Have We Lost which has a ponderous acoustic guitar at its core and dopplering synth wrapped around it to little effect.
Black Female has a stammering beat reminscent of a tap dance routine (!?) before a slow, crunching drum is introduced a la Eric Serra is introduced near the end, it has flavours of Aphex Twin but lacks the bite. A Nightclub is a more successful effort, driven by a grumpy spoken word vocal, energetic guitar and blips and bleeps of varying guises. Whilst Growl mixes its menagerie of sounds with a great drum-line, winding up with that head-noddingly industrial feel of Eamon Tobin.
It's easy to see why tracks from this record were used to soundtrack the British gangster film Killer Bitch which stars Alex Reid from 'Celebrity' Big Brother. and I don't mean that in the sense that they match the quality of the film that proudly boasts the quote "This is the shoddiest excuse for a film I've seen in my life..." on its web-page. Instead, I mean there's a spaciousness to these tracks and that feel of being part of a visual experience missing from them, they seem occasionally incomplete as audio alone. I don't think that Alex Reid's film debut was quite the image Senley would have had in mind when composing this.
Homage has some lovely arrangments in the background of its soundscape, but it unfortunately has a nu-horror voiceover talking about disease that feels awkward and out-of-place, almost unintentional. I'm Haunted is a strange segway of noises, trickling sounds, laidback guitar, snatches of various beats and French dialogue, but it just kind of happens in between the previous track and the next as if Senley wasn't sure where to put it on the record. Ignorance Is No Defence begins peculiarly with elegant harp and gentle bongo rhythms before taking a sharp turn onto reversed guitar and familiar drum loops, building with thumping bass and unsettlingly sexual grunts it's like a trundling, home-made ghost train through an abbatoir and a brothel before collapsing into stuttering break-beats.
This is an interesting record but not always in an absolutely positive way, Senley has an erratic style that occasionally takes the listener on exciting and unexpected journeys, but a lot of the time it just feels a little impatient or unsure. The closing track The True Horrors of Hell has a squeaky, bouncy bass line like mechanical orangutans blended with day-glo synths and standard drum loops, sometimes the track gathers momentum and sometimes it slows down, but it doesn't really do so with much vigour or purpose and comes off as a little unsatisfying as a result. Which kind of speaks for the whole record, there are elements of these tracks that work really well, but they're usually snatched away or muddied over, which is fine, but their often replaced by something lacklustre or muffled by a poor choice of sample. Senley is undoubtedly adept at creating vivid and exciting soundscapes and marrying them to a good beat or melody, but across these twelve tracks he begins to repeat himself a little too much and some ideas tumble out half formed. Still, this is an intriguing record at best.