Four albums and a decade in, JOHN continue to prove that two instruments are more than capable of matching the ferocity of a marching band in a wind tunnel. Explosive, relentless, and unforgiving, their new album A Life Diagrammatic captures the frenetic energy of their live performance whilst edging towards a more textured and varied soundscape.
Throughout the album, signature moments of eruption are more thoughtfully deployed than in previous work allowing for a newfound subtlety, depth, and melodic sensitivity. Tracks like ‘Construction Site/Summer_22’ and lead single ‘Trauma Mosaic’ pack a surprising amount of feeling into the powerful propulsive drum beat. Most impressive is when this measured control collapses into abstract sections of brooding and echoed reverb. The faint, scratchy monologue of actor Simon Pegg in ‘Media Res’ lends the album a foreboding and tense narrative arc that sets the tone for the atmospheric world building of later tracks. ‘A Submersible’ and ‘A Whole House’, in particular, embrace the cinematic theatricality prompted by Pegg’s monologue and stretch it to encompass both rhythm and melody. The album is a work of taut restraint and largely cathartic release.
If A Life Diagrammatic’s greatest strength is in its slowly built tension and haunting atmosphere, then its weakness is in not having pushed it to its limit. At times, the release that is expected from such moments is absent. Overall though, any issues are almost always quickly forgotten, particularly when we’re thrown headfirst into the electric thumping rhythm of tracks like ‘Service Stationed’, featuring vocals by Leona Farrugia of the frenzied psychedelic band ĠENN.
Following its release, the duo will embark on a run of UK in-stores; the intimate setting of these shows is sure to make for a deafening live experience, well worth the inevitable earplug safety measure.
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