David Wrench and Evangeline Ling make an unlikely pairing: he a veteran producer who’s worked with David Byrne, Frank Ocean and Caribou; she a recent Goldsmiths art graduate and model. As audiobooks though, they’ve created a winning formula, with Ling’s eccentric vocal performance giving a human quirk to Wrench’s uber-clean production. On their second album Astro Tough, it’s a combination that proves endlessly fruitful.
Anyone who has seen them live will attest that the pair don’t shy away from weirdness, and there’s plenty of that here – opener ‘The Doll’ is especially off-kilter, with Ling weaving a surrealist narrative around the pulsating, meditative beat. ‘LaLaLa It’s The Good Life’ answers the question “What if 100 gecs, but for adults?”, an ode, like much of the album, to London’s nightlife. If the album centres on the dancefloor thematically, it also does so sonically. audiobooks know how to make people dance, and tracks like ‘Black Lipstick’ and ‘First Move’ are destined to become audience favourites. The latter, about the heady anticipation that comes before a night out, sees Ling take on the role of the narrator, oscillating between empathy and voyeurism. Her imaginative and graphic storytelling throughout Astro Tough calls to mind writers like Leonora Carrington or Lydia Davis in its endearing strangeness, particularly on ‘The English Manipulator’ and the brooding ‘He Calls Me Bambi’. If Wrench’s masterful production is the expertly-made canvas, it’s this storytelling which gives the record its colour, and combined they make a brilliant piece of art.
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