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Downes Braide Association: Suburban Ghosts

The pairing of Geoff Downes of Asia and Yes fame and Chris Braide, a name less familiar, but with a producer/writing list of credits including Paloma Faith, Christina Aguilera and Lana Del Rey, in one way or another, you've heard his work (although for readers of this site, his recent This Oceanic Feeling debut, which was reviewed on SoT very positively, will be of much more interest), return with their second album Suburban Ghosts. The duo's debut, Pictures Of You, made a strong impression, Downes going back to his The Buggles strengths by moving between prog and pop, and album number two follows a similar route. However through the voice of Braide, these songs have much more impact and staying power than the description pop suggests.

Taking a slice of 80s electronica and infusing a far more obvious song based approach results in a collection of infectious and memorable songs that veer far from expected, while feeling readily familiar. "Machinery Of Fate" opens this album's account in rip roaring yet controlled fashion, Downes laying down a full pelt melody which is corralled by a classy, shimmering vocal. However the two track (yet three part) title cut is probably the most instantly memorable on the disc, the repeat of "I see ghosts, suburban ghosts" a true stick in the mind. Although the follow up smack of "Vanity" provides a stunningly impressive vocal delivered against stark piano and atmospheric washes. It's not only an illustration of Braide's vocal prowess but also his pristine production, from which this album benefits hugely.

A conceptual piece, covering the idea of the isolation and loneliness of small town living revisited by someone who has left and returned after experiencing the wide world, leaves the album being about the "suburban ghosts" encountered as the past is relived. Impressively through a set of songs that do undoubtedly rely on the word pop (although there are many strong prog references throughout) for much of their inspiration, the likes of "North Sea", "Time Goes Fast" and "Dreaming Of England" have a depth and intricacy not often associated with that genre. Or at least not for many a year. And interestingly "Finale", which reprises the music of the album's opening cut sans vocals, reveals how closely linked Downes Braide Association are to Downes' early work in The Buggles. That band took his keyboard prowess, married it to catchy themes, melodies and ideas and employed a charismatic vocalist who also had the production midas touch to bring them to fruition. Sound familiar? The results are as captivating now as they were way back when, even if they sound decidedly different - and similar.

Track Listing
1. Machinery Of Fate
2. Suburban Ghosts Parts 1 and 2
3. Suburban Ghosts Part 3
4. Vanity
5. Number One
6. Interlude
7. North Sea
8. One Of The Few
9. Time Goes Fast
10. Live Twice
11. Dreaming Of England
12. Finale

Added: March 14th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Suburban Ghosts at Cherry Red
Hits: 2522
Language: english

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Downes Braide Association: Suburban Ghosts
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2016-03-15 00:35:50
My Score:

Okay, so you don't usually associate artists who have worked with the likes of Beyonce and Christina Aguilera on this site but that is exactly the case with Chris Braide who has made a considerable name for himself in the pop world as a writer and producer. On the other hand, Geoff Downes should need no introduction as the artist has become quite prolific in the progressive rock world with his work with Asia, The Buggles and Yes.

In 2010 the artists met for the first time and released the first Downes Braide Association album Pictures Of You in 2012. The duo is back with their sophomore effort Suburban Ghosts.

Although you might think this is a progressive rock album given the involvement of Geoff Downes, this is not the case. However, fear not as Suburban Ghosts is an excellent musical statement from these talented artists. As in their first release the duo continue their adventures with electronic pop music heavily saturated with keyboards and outstanding melodies. To top it off, Braide's lead vocals throughout the set are excellent and lend well to the band's template of electronics and crystal clear keyboard sheen.

The first track "Machinery Of Fate" with its techno beat, melodic lead vocals and beautifully crafted keyboards reminds more than a little of the Pet Shop Boys and that should be taken as a compliment. The title track is divided into three parts and perfectly conveys the feeling of loneliness and isolation, the theme of which is touched upon throughout these twelve tracks. The guitar in "Parts 1 and 2" is particularly tuneful and melodic as are the warm backing vocals. The electropop feel is toned down somewhat on the balladic "Vanity" although the background is still filled with lush orchestrations and soft keyboard layerings. On "Number One" the electronics are a little darker and the vocal arrangement is really quite excellent. One of the hardest hitting tunes is the mournful "One Of The Few" where impactful lyrics and moody keyboard atmospheres is incredibly gripping.

Throughout the disc Braide and Downes channel the best of '80s electronic music making for a delightfully nostalgic listen. Modern day production values, fine songwriting and smart concept add to its undeniable charm and puts Suburban Ghosts among 2016's best releases.

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