Although it’s only been two years, it seems like an age since we last heard from epic45. This is more a reflection of their prolific output thus far and the core members of the band, Rob Glover and Ben Holton, have hardly been slacking in the meantime. Whether reveling in vintage electronic pop (in the case of Glover) or the joyous, harmonic glories of Holton’s My Autumn Empire, the duo have been creating their own individual take on nostalgia. Nevertheless, it’s good to have them back together again even if ‘Monument EP’ features a mere three new tracks.
‘Defeat’ begins the EP in subdued, minimalist and rather morose fashion, with Holton whispering “these are the end days” (hopefully not a premonition for the future of the band) over a primitive foundation of beats. The title track is made of several more layers and takes a more familiar approach for those accustomed to epic45’s previous offerings, with pretty guitar patterns and choral voices resembling a summer’s dream, particularly for the exquisite coda. ‘Skeletons’ is dreamier still. Indeed, Holton has emerged as a much more strident vocalist on his My Autumn Empire albums so even when he’s singing dark lyrics such as “It’s like you’re dead” over a blissful arrangement, it still sounds like the sweetest music.
A cover of Tears For Tears’ ‘Ideas As Opiates’ is treated with a hushed piano-led reverence; Holton’s warm, soothing tones providing a satisfying alternative to Roland Orzabal’s low register. There are two alternative takes of ‘Monument’ added to the end of the EP. The first by ISAN begins with steady electronic pulses but by its denouement it is positively dripping with lovely vapour trails whilst ‘Monument II’, recorded with ex-Disco Inferno man Ian Crause, witnesses the collective in full-on experimental mode, in keeping with the adventurous spirit of their collaborator’s former band.
They’ve not been away long enough for ‘Monument’ to be considered a comeback but this EP is an elegant, refined return to the magic of epic45. The songs within may be too gentle and unassuming for some but the essence of what makes epic45 special is still very much there as those endless British summer holidays are once more brought into vivid form via some expertly arranged songwriting.
My Autumn Empire, Field Harmonics, Depeche Mode, Robert Wyatt