Inscapeby Roger Young / 19.09.2011
Isochronous have an uncanny ability to write glorious, mdma-level singalong inducing pop prog songs that have incredible longevity. On their 3rd album however, the longevity of these songs may have finally been stretched to its limit. I don’t think I can fully explain to you how hard it was for me to type that previous sentence. While only three of the songs on the album have been recorded in other versions, I have heard the bulk of them in live sets for just on two years now. The songs are no less brilliant than when first heard and the production on the album is crisp and grand but there is lack of newness that lends itself to disappointment. To add to this disappointment, the new track “Destiny” feels like a dumbed down version of their heroic harmony infused maths rock.
To be fair to Isochronous they have, due to various setbacks, been struggling for a long time to get this album out and have had no choice but to tour the material. How else does a non-5FM playlisted band survive? To those who are only discovering Isochronous now (though, the aforementioned new track, “Destiny” which has recently play listed on 5FM) the quality of the other tracks on the album to be a pleasant surprise and, hopefully, an education. But to those who’ve been following Isochronous for a while, the it’s a mere stop gap while we wait for the new material.
“Tempest”, in this album version, is paced like they’re trying to get through it quickly. Flitting from hot plate jazz into a glorious plea and dotted with clever, skilled changes that make you feel like they’re just showing off. Still the song writing shines through, buoyed by the many memories of fields of festival voices all singing along. “White City.” Fuck. I love this track. And I love this version of it. From its power pop chords, heroic harmonies and its four to the floor beat and that earnest naiveté. They’ve added very few show-off flourishes onto the version they play live. This is the song they’ve yet to top. And must if they’re going to fulfill their destiny. “Oxygen” is their stadium show piece, epic builds to harmonies and air punch inducing rhythm. “Torpid” continues in a similar vein but with more chanting. “Secret Connection” cycles through lush instrumentation, lamenting lyrics and guitars that invoke visions wind machines and puffy shirts.
Richard Brokensha’s weird inflections are half of the charm of an Isochronous song, he has a way of following the music, often splitting words in half in some kind of odd man-child staccato, not so on “Destiny”, a good enough song but just not, well, Isochronous enough. The last great song on Inscape is “Asleep In Our Consciousness”, from the adorably innocent lyrics to the long slow build from sleepy time drums to Ride-Of-The-Valkyries-choral work and guitars that breaks into a frenetic jazz funk riff and finally a super chunky guitar grind out, it’s the model of what Isochronous is. The last three tracks on the album don’t quite reach the heights of the earlier half, both “From The Attic” and “Gravity” seem like afterthoughts, layered with seventies stadium guitar, marching rhythms and little else. “Into The Tide” while great live, just seems to just lack the anchor, some vital weighting.
Albums generally only have a few excellent tracks and Inscape has many. While the showcasing of incredible technical skills can sometimes be at the expense of immersion, obscuring the tension of their clean progressions, Isochronous’ excellent songwriting always shines though. For all its minor faults, and my own frustration, Inscape illustrates Isochronous’ perfect balance between pop and musicianship.