Engineers EngineersIn Praise Of More
A few months ago, things started to go wrong at the heart of Engineers. Catastrophe was about to strike, threatening to do away with what is one of the unavoidable points of reference for London dream-pop: two of it’s members (Dan Macbean and Andrew Sweeney) decided to hang up their instruments and leave after the release of “Three Fact Fader”, the album that ended up widening their perspective and raising the decibels of their atmospheres (at least in comparison with the band’s debut album), was continually postponed by the record company. A little more and they wouldn’t have survived. Having reached that point, they had to change or die. In came Daniel Land –who leads his own shoegaze band, Daniel Land & The Modern Painters– and Berliner Ulrich Schnauss –who in his solo works, like “A Strangely Isolated Place”, already projected the memory of the Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine, as well as collaborating with Land himself. Engineers then entered a second phase with a new group, an ideal situation according to the opinion of many fans: the group is now in an ideal place to distort its pattern and transform the identifying features of its sweet, psychedelic proposal. Nevertheless, the truth is that the foundations of their sound haven’t moved in the least—neither has the important vocal role of Simon Phipps– and everything continues on course. For the moment, there is nothing new under the sun.
The fact that there aren’t any big surprises in this “In Praise of More” with respect to their previous works might in theory imply a gesture of convenience. And this is true. But in turn the album explores all of the styles that have been maturing over the years in its nine songs, doing them notably well, making it clear that our stars are increasingly letting themselves be carried away more by the melodic structures, and less by breaks in the style. This doesn’t mean that they have become accessible, but from the beautiful, ethereal My Bloody Valentine style of “What It’s Worth”, by way of the astral folk of “Las Vegas” or the post-punk in shoegaze key in “Press Rewind”, which is a highlight that is as good as “Sometimes I Realise”, Engineers give us a work whose coherence –reinforced by its short duration– is like one of those gentle naps that can save anyone from routine and tiredness. It’s true that it’s short, but we all know that sleeping more than twelve hours at a stretch isn’t good for you: you feel as if a steamroller had run over your bones while you were sleeping.
The presence of Schnauss –before he accompanied them on tour, but now he has had no choice but to involve himself in the album full-time—starts out almost unnoticed, but it becomes more evident as the minutes pass. In “To an Evergreen”, for example, a nightmare that can remind one of the “Ultra” period of Depeche Mode, and in which the synthesisers end up dominating everything, leaving the acoustic guitars that had started out leading the album, and which are in fact the main unifying feature, very discreet and in the background. The same thing happens, but in electrified mode, in the piece that gives its name to the title of the LP, very much in the line of “Three Fact Fader”, with a motorik drumbeat and a playful keyboard like that of a Gameboy, leading Engineers to totally blow off that dream pop label that they’ve been carrying around since the beginning, daring to be pop, just pop. Will the next thing that they’re working on be like this? Less haze and more songs? If that is the case, many people are going to be pulling their hair out. But it looks like they’re predestined to head down this road, sooner or later.
Sergio del Amo