Hox, "Duke of York"

Sunday, 29 November 2015 20:25 Creaig Dunton Reviews - Albums and Singles
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cover imageEven with two amazing solo albums last year and a new Wire album with subsequent touring, Graham Lewis managed to reactivate Hox with Andreas Karperyd (with whom he has collaborated as He Said Omala).  The music, as always, exceeds expectations, and the duo has created an album of engaging electronic pop with enough strangeness befitting Lewis' lengthy and consistently magnificent career.

Editions Mego

While 2014's All Over featured Lewis once again displaying his unparalleled ability to blend the experimental with the musical, on Duke of York with Karperyd those conventional sensibilities are even more placed on the forefront.  This is clear from the first 30 seconds of "Anthracite":  propelled by a moderate tempo beat, molten synth tones are shaped into bass lines and an engaging, catchy bit of music is constructed by the two.  Weird sounds and crunchy electronics underscore the spoken word vocals, coming together as oddly treated yet rhythmically powerful pseudo-industrial song.

The chunky bass and what sounds like a looped guitar melody that open the first half of "Correct Co-ordinates," and the vocals that appear towards the second half make for an odd, sort of loose feeling.  It is that unique brand of off-kilter electronic pop Lewis spearheaded in the 1980s incarnation of Wire and their limited period as Wir.  Speaking of the latter, the more tense and chaotic "It's Too Much" is locked into a jumpy beat and layered vocal structure rather early, but what very much resembles a sample from the opening of "Big Glue Canal" contrast the lighter vocal portions exceptionally well.

The ending pair of "Goodbye" and "Frequency" close the album on quite a strong note.  The former is a complex mass of polyrhythmic drum programming and a gripping bass.  As usual, Lewis' vocal delivery is majestic and captivatingly melodic, and the way the duo pair the voice and warm keyboard leads with the more erratic background sounds is another testament to how well the obtuse and enjoyable can be blended perfectly.  "Frequency" ends the album with warm bass guitar melodies and a metric ton of processing on both the music and vocals.  Even with the unconventional alien sensibility, there’s a comfort and familiarity to the sound that makes it especially endearing.

Other than his work with Wire, Duke of York might be Graham Lewis' most approachable and conventional work since He Said's Take Care.  But even the most conventional music from him remains exceptionally depth and complex.  Works such as this cement the role he served as the mediator between Colin Newman's love of pure pop music and Bruce Gilbert's penchant for chaos and noise during Wire's most well regarded eras.  Likely because of this, his expertise at blending those two disparate approaches to music is exceptionally strong.  This is something that shines through in his solo work, and also in his collaborations such as here with Andreas Karperyd, who's electronic contributions give the record a timeless, yet forward thinking sensibility.  Duke of York is an amazingly robust record full of innovative electronic sounds and textures, but wrapped in the cloak of a catchy pop record:  a masquerade that effortlessly succeeds in both of those very different realms.

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Last Updated on Monday, 30 November 2015 12:19