As a producer Stephen Shannon has worked with some of the finest bands in this country and his Experimental Audio studio has delivered some of the finest sounding records of recent years, including the critically acclaimed second album of his other going concern, Halfset. This experience is in full evidence here and this is a stunning sounding debut record from Strands, his solo guise. The care and precision that has been put into the composition, recording and mixing of these tracks is obvious from the start. Instruments flit in and out, always clear and present without ever jostling for attention.
Opener ‘Framed’ is a perfect example of Shannon’s abilities, beginning with a simple guitar phrase that blossoms into a full-blooded jam with the introduction of the startlingly gargantuan drums. It’s the first point of many where you realise how dynamic and beautiful this album really is. In an age where albums are compressed beyond recognition to squeeze a little extra loudness out of them, it’s a pleasure to hear something more concerned with the natural ebb and flow of it’s own carefully crafted sounds.
Though based primarily on instrumental loops and phrases, the album also has an electronic bedrock that underpins everything else. This side of things comes into it’s own on ‘Tremor’, a suitably descriptive title for a song that is built out of a single vibrating bass chord. It is a deceptively simple composition, and shows off Shannon’s finely honed artistic control as well as the fact he clearly knows his way around an LFO.
In short, this is a pretty stunning album. It stands out from much of the instrumental music being made here at the moment by having considerably more in common with Steve Reich than Sigur Ros or Mogwai. It begs to be listened to on the best pair of speakers or headphones you can find, inviting you to explore the endless subtleties and nuances carefully tucked away inside. This is an album that can, and should, be considered in a classical light, bearing as it does all the hallmarks of a composer that is confident, brave and, above all, immensely talented.