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Positive Feedback ISSUE 41
january/february 2009


Bloc Party, Intimacy
by Michael Mercer


Atlantic Records hit a home run with Intimacy, the latest record from Bloc Party. Their music is wildly engaging and, just downright fun. The first time I tossed the record into the deck the sounds of "Ares" (the introductory track) conjured images of an action sequence in a Guy Ritchie film (Snatch and Rocknrolla for examples). The chorus is a unique blend of pounding drums, screams, and whirling siren-like sonics. Hence the lyrics "we dance to the sounds of sirens”. This may sound like a chaotic mix, but there is a seeming method to their madness. The bands command of their chosen sounds and the way in which they orchestrate everything works, making this collision of noise a splendid musical journey. The towering vocals and guitars on "Halo”; the most popular single here in the Bay Area, are infectious.

This song would make for a great party playlist, as would the rest of the album. Kele Okereke (lead vocalist) also showcases his ability to sing softly and controlled on "Biko”; the album's ballad. While the song is slow and melancholy, the sound remains futuristic via electro-style pads and drum machine-like stabs (please excuse the rhyme here, completely unintentional). The bells and bleeps on the opening of "Signs" play like a modern-day interpretation of classic Pink Floyd, and there are other sounds throughout the album that possess that same quality. "Zephyrus" combines hard-hitting drum-n-bass percussion with soaring choral arrangements. Think the Chemical Brothers meets Dead Can Dance. The real magic of Intimacy however, lies within its many themes. The sound encompasses varying musical trends without sounding forced or intentionally "modern.”

While it is unfortunate that one can imagine these songs peddling a new car on television, or even advancements in Dyson's art of vacuum technology, that only solidifies their connection to the present. That is not to say that the music is overly commercial, rather it mirrors the many sounds inundating our senses every day. However, Bloc Party does this in a way that makes these sounds not only listenable, but damn enjoyable. Fortunately, their care and attention to detail was not lost on the actual production quality of the CD. There is depth and a real sense of dimension throughout the many cuts on Intimacy. The bass is present and articulate, but not over-powering (I mention this problem often I know). The greatest sonic attribute of this album lies in the upper midrange. These sounds (electronic, and the fusion of organic and synthetic) can come off as tinny or a bit piercing at times. The engineers seemingly knew this, as they mixed and mastered the record in a way that allows for coherency in most of the sounds. They translate well, without sparking listener fatigue. These tracks might also make for great ringtones, but clearly this was not their aim (or at least I hope not). Bloc Party's sound captures the present and paints a picture of the future. This is the music of the non-stop, always plugged in generation, done with a level of integrity and taste. More bands should choose to craft their songs with such care and precision. Bravo!