When I FEA(U)TURE‘d Ink Project back in January, my main impression was – this is a project that certainly has all their ducks in a row. From the few examples of their music and from talking to them I got this rare and enviable confidence – here we are, this is our sound, this is our style, love us or hate us. Their debut LP Inside The Sun is the result and evidence of this confidence. I’m sure many of you encountered debut albums that were great but kind of all over the place, full of soul- and sound-searching, and then the promising debutante disappears either shouldered off by the louder, luckier, more connected, and, yeah, more confident, or dissolved into the ocean of mediocrity after finally finding their sound that turned out to be nothing special after all. I don’t think that either scenario is something that Ink Project should worry about. Inside The Sun is such a solid, cohesive and strong debut that also shows a unique voice that it’s pretty clear (to me at least) that Ink Project is here to stay. To get the whole genre question out of the way – it’s not trip-hop. Or it is, as much as, say, Lamb or Laika are. We covered this during our Q&A as well, and I was utterly pleased with the way Jez Lloyd and Melanie Dymond talked about trip-hop – with respect and understanding, without considering themselves “a trip-hop band” (which they most certainly aren’t) but realizing that they will inevitably be associated with the genre (which they certainly are, hence this here review ) and fully embracing it. I totally dig this attitude. And I totally dig their debut album, more and more with every listen. I’m grown to like works of art that challenge the audience somewhat – be it film, literature or music. The albums that “grab you” right from the first track are usually end up having a bunch of fillers and don’t live up to their catchy openings. Inside The Sun eases you in. “Eye Of Glass” is a drifting, dreamy track with soft echoing vocals wrapped around minimal, metronome-like beat, that towards the end actually managed to create images of Solar prominences in my mind. This is definitely a concept album, which unfolds its story in a slow tempo that allows you to fully appreciate its quality. The title is very spot on – the sound of Inside The Sun combines everything that makes this star so attractive – its massiveness, mystery, warmth and danger. The only major difference is that looking directly at the sun will hurt your eyes, but listening closely to Inside The Sun is highly recommended, for each track is full of wonderful detail. And, of course, Melanie Dymond is a pure joy to listen to. She is a downtempo producer’s dream vocalist – her voice is very unique, soft, soulful and intuitive. But it’s the production that makes the vocals the star of the album. Multiplying, layering, echoing really highlights the range and ability, but it goes way beyond that, smartly avoiding placing all bets just on singing. “Araldite Tears” is a great example (and one of my favorite tracks on the record) – it starts out with a straightforward vocals/beat combo (very Lamb-y, if you ask me), letting Melanie go to town with improvisation and structuring her singing around the rhythm, and then all of a sudden the vocals die and those heavenly strings kick in, leaving me absolutely speechless. And let me say a few words about the beat, because it deserves a special mention. What I like about the Ink Project‘s sound is that in their steering clear from any particular genre they aren’t achieving that by chaotically blending chunks of different genre elements. Instead they methodically construct their own sound free of any direct influences, even whit the beat, which is the most explored area of electronica. I wouldn’t say it always works 100%, but it definitely gives Ink Project its uniqueness, which to me is extremely important. Almost every track on Inside The Sun would fit organically on any downtempo/trip-hop/whathaveya-electronica compilation and would create one of those moments when you’re listening to a compilation full of unknowns and enjoying it and nodding your head but then there’s this one track that makes you actually look at the artist’s name. I hope that Inside The Sun will create such moment on this big compilation that electronica is today and make lots of fans look at the name. I’ll save you some trouble – the name is Ink Project and you can listen to the album right here and purchase it on Juno Download or iTunes.
R.I.Y.L. Lamb, Laika, deep space
personal favs: “Araldite Tears”, “Hot Lies”, “Eye Of Glass”