Curator and producer James Lavelle‘s musical outfit UNKLE is almost impossible to put in a box. The collaborative project, with its wide range of impressive creators and twenty-five-year running, is one of lofty ambitions, and the latest studio album The Road Pt.1 is no exception.
The album opens not with a song, but with one of four “iters”. These spoken word tracks layered over dreamlike instrumentals have the sole purpose of creating an atmosphere; think of them as the setting to The Road in question. This is especially true of the first iter, which ends with the words “This is your journey“, before the first official track begins. ‘Farewell‘ combines the grand sound of several violins with a strong harmony to make a classic-sounding piece. In addition, the lyrics are poetic but simple enough to be memorable. The shift from violin and piano to guitar and synth in the middle of the song is seamless, and the beautifully eerie vocals found in the rest of the song make their return here.
Later we see ‘Looking For The Rain‘, one of the only tracks released as a single; after one listen, the reason it was chosen as a single isn’t hard to find. The song is described as “a call to arms in our turbulent modern world“, complete with gritty vocals, a brilliant drum machine line and classical instruments that are just damn operatic. In short, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and powerful listen.
Another standout track is side C’s ‘Stole Enough‘. As it’s slower in pace than many of the other songs on The Road Pt. 1, it’s more dramatic in sound than hard-rocking, but it’s absolutely beautiful. Everything from the elegance of the piano line to the subdued yet emotional singer make this a near-perfect track.
Hot on the heels of this album’s release, UNKLE have the rest of the year booked up with touring, and rumour has it that ‘The Road Pt. 2‘ is already in the works. We’re thinking that it can’t come soon enough; even if this isn’t your scene or style of music, it’s a record you just have to admire.
The Road Pt. 1 by UNKLE is out now via Songs for the Def.