South-London electro-folk artist Tony Volker is someone who I could easily pop into my kitchen sink selection of music. Whilst electro-folk is the central pillar of his music, he is happy to pull in all kinds of genres and influences from everywhere to create a unique and engaging album. ‘Where The Light Gets In’ lets in a whole world of sounds to entertain you.
Even from ‘Intro’ we have anthemic brass arrangements, r n b beats and otherworldly vocals. It’s a primer for the mesh of music you’ll experience. ‘Islands In the Dark’ balances electronic beats and rubbery bass synths with delicate tuned percussion and world instruments like fiddles, dulcimers and I’m sure I can hear a sitar in there somewhere. It is fun, hinting at 70’s weirdness and feels like it has a splash of parody. Tony Volker’s voice reminds me a little of early Beck and Tom Vek. It has a talky tone to it whilst also sounding like we’re slurring in a pub. It may be an acquired taste, but most of the album is.
‘When Armies Charge’ is more of a straight forward electro-synth track, dipping into darkwave and mixing eerie tape warped middle eastern samples. It’s really effective at setting up a tense and moody atmosphere and Tony’s layered vocal arrangements really shine here. ‘Diamonds In The Dirt’ is the Beatles track of the album and will appeal to those who enjoy an older crooner style of rock with light jazz fusions. Personally, I find the genre and culture mash-ups more interesting such as the second half of light pop track ‘Something Better Than This’. After a light and breezy drum, bass and vocal track that borders cute Caribbean folk, a string arrangement and sampling creeps in that unsettles the happy chilled vibe and disturbs the track for the better.
The unexpected continues with ‘Hover’ with dulcimer pop-rock that literally hovers around a single chord. Over the track, the single chord gains momentum from one note to a full dulcimer/uke strum as other synths and voices build up the piece. ‘Shadow Dance’ then brings in rock to the equation for possibly my favourite track on the album. Tony’s voice really suits the thick basslines, rubbery guitars and heavy organs. It’s catchy and has lots of tuned percussion hidden around the track to make it stand out too. Less successful is ‘Pantomime’ which is a dark chamber pop piece that has a fantastic final minute but meanders getting there. ‘The Last Landslide’ then brings us back to the electro-folk anthems we opened the album with. I had mentioned Tom Vek and Beck earlier in the review and this track also reminds of them too. Tony is just more of an experimental version of them, adding in a slice of Peter Ulrich to the equation.
It is really difficult to know who’d enjoy Tony Volker best. ‘Where the Light Gets In’ is full of inventive ideas that don’t always mesh well together. Sometimes that’s due to the relatively flat production the album has where instruments struggle to be separated out. Other times, usually in the heavier sections, that works to the album’s advantage. Give Tony Volker a go though, this album will be a grower, not a shower. There is real talent here that with some elevated production, would really be astounding.
Recommended track: Shadow Dance
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