Album: SPOOKY – Open (spooky.uk.com spookcd003 2007)

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Charlie May and Duncan Forbes were more successful than most during the mid nineties in bridging the gap between commercial progressive house and more experimental electronica. Their debut album Gargantuan, released in 1993, was a classic of its kind. The follow up, Found Sound, saw the duo moving into a much more abstract and experimental direction that appeared to confuse many of their audience. It wasn’t a bad record, but felt a bit anti-climactic after the three marvellous EPs that preceded it (Stereo, Clank and Shunt).

Spooky embarked on a lengthy sabbatical which was only broken in 2002 by the release of the single “Belong”. Five years on from that, and eleven since Found Sound, their third album appeared. Open is a very different beast from its predecessor. It’s a two CD set, and the first disc is comprised of nine pieces of R&B tinged pop house that fetch up somewhere between Chicane and Timbaland. My initial reaction was one of huge disappointment. Neither Julie Daske nor Celestine Walcott-Gordon, who share vocal duties, has a bad voice, but neither do they have much personality. Daske is especially bland. Few of the arrangements are particularly imaginative, either. But none of the songs are unpleasant – “Strange Addiction” is actually a particularly strong track. It’s just that this stuff is a long, long way from “Schmoo”, “Aqualung” or “Stereo”.

The second CD contains eight reworked versions of material found on the first, and one new track. The songs are dubbed, gutted, remade and remodelled – all generally with one eye on the chill out room. The disc works much better than its companion, as musical ideas are pushed to the fore and the commercial pop element takes more of a back seat. The ten minute re-imagining of “Shelter” is particularly good.

I’m loathe to criticise Open simply for not being what I expected. That would be stupid. But the slick pop of the first disc doesn’t shake my tree. The second CD is far more interesting and makes the album a keeper.

Tracks:
1.01 Belong
1.02 New Light
1.03 No Return
1.04 What Are We Waiting For?
1.05 Shelter
1.06 It’s So Late
1.07 Strange Addiction
1.08 The River
1.09 An Ending

2.01 Belong (Echo Space Dub)
2.02 What Are We Waiting For? (Dub)
2.03 New Light (Dub)
2.04 Shelter (Slow Phase)
2.05 No Return (Dorset Echo)
2.06 The River (Ambient)
2.07 Dub Addiction
2.08 New Light (Slow Motion)
2.09 Celeste

Website:
www.spooky.uk.com

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