Since beginning in 2003, London’s Engineers have done much to provide a crossover appeal for shoegaze/dream pop music. After the majestic mystery of their self-titled debut to the euphoric pop of 2009’s ‘Three Fact Fader’ and then the pleasant but somewhat underwhelming ‘In Praise Of More’ (from 2010), their new album is a welcome comeback.
At once, ‘Bless The Painter’ is indicative of a more strident approach. Incisive beats and synth washes are propelled to the front of the mix with breathy vocals forming an extra sumptuous layer. ‘Fight Or Flight’ is alive with bright busy melodies which seem to draw on Cocteau Twins’ ‘A Kissed Out Red Floatboat’ for inspiration and that cannot possibly be a bad move. A blissful experience and much the same can be said for ‘It Rings So True’ which sounds like aural wallpaper at first but this mesmerising track is populated by detailed unwinding hooks and ghostly vocals.
The original album was recorded alone by founder member Mark Peters but the ambient touches by Ulrich Schnauss add a sparkle and sheen and possibly the reason why Engineers are labelled as “nu gaze”. The second half is more diverse and less consistent but still punctuated by highlights. Even an instrumental ‘Innsbruck’ sounds confident and urgent; contrasting the gentler piano-led ‘Smoke And Mirrors’. Only on the overtly poppy ‘Searched For Answers’ and the straight-laced ‘Smiling Back’ do the band lose their way but the final title track is a brilliantly refined way to end the record.
Granted, ‘Always Returning’ works as background music; one can certainly imagine it unobtrusively soundtracking an art installation. However, the accompanying instrumental album only emphasises the fact there are layers of complexity here which prove that Engineers are always searching – and usually finding – intelligent and sumptuous ambient soundscapes.
Ulrich Schnauss, Delay Trees