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Emslie, Alan: AE 50

Released, as his previous albums have been, on the 21st of December ((21.12) (2019) you only need to look at the AE 50 album title from Scottish drumming multi-instrumentalist Alan Emslie to understand where his main inspiration comes from. However, if anything, what this part retrospective, part new album, part 50th birthday celebration thoroughly illustrates is the breadth of influences at play across a thematically linked but still interestingly diverse collection. Yes Rush play a part in what you’ll hear - the guitar solo during “Charon” being a prime example - but everything from Rammstein to Genesis plays an equal if not stronger part in the Emslie attack.

The links to the latter of those bands comes in a variety of ways, with some of the keyboard sounds on cuts such as “Daylight” hitting like Duke era Banks, whereas, what with his percussive abilities, many of the songs find the beats and rhythms being central to what’s going on in the same way that Phil Collins strongest moments also are. Vocally there can also be a Gabriel/Collins and Fish feel running under a slightly less elegant bark that proves quite compelling. That said, what sets Emslie’s prog approach aside from most bands using these classic acts as a touching point is his ability to grind up the guitars and almost industrialise his attack in such a way that “Misanthropic Myopic Man” howls with barely controlled anger.

Impressively these differing styles somehow meld perfectly and for an album where the songs have been sourced from a back catalogue stretching across a couple of decades and augmented with some unheard new music, the natural flow where atmospheric shimmers sit neatly alongside pounding drums and gyrating guitars is quite an achievement. Admittedly the closing 24 minute ambient wash of “Obnubilate” doesn’t quite manage to fit into this collection’s character quite so neatly, and unless this style is something you truly engage with, it may prove a step too far. If nothing else it undoubtedly shows just how versatile Emslie can be.

With 22 tracks on parade and a myriad of connected but different styles in evidence AE 50 does exactly what it set out to - celebrate the music and skills of a much underrated composer, drummer and musician. It’s also a fantastic place to begin an investigation into what is a back catalogue well worth getting to know. So let’s raise a glass to Alan Emslie and hope that his journey still has many more twists and turns to come.

Track Listing
1. Can We Go On
2. Misanthropic Myopic Man
3. Dark Matter
4. Daylight
5. Planned Obsolescence
6. Incomplete
7. Sweet Dreams
8. Silly Truth
9. Charon
10. Losing Sight Of The Smallest Picture
11. Bitter Boy (Instrumental)
12. All The Time
13. Dark Triangles
14. The Projectionist
15. Downforce
16. Patterns
17. Watching The Waves
18. Groovy Jelly
19. Duchesse De Bourgogne
20. Emotive Bay
21. Bitter Boy
22. Obnubilate

Added: February 1st 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: AE 50 @ bandcamp
Hits: 806
Language: english

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