Plastic Lions

By David Gunn

Every once in a while, a release wings in from the middle of an unknown somewhere and drops sparkling surprises on your ears. Unanticipated, unbeckoned, yet as welcome as an old-style Coke bottle in your kitchen fridge. And Plastic Lions is precisely this. A diverse collection of misty-eyed balladry and gangly psychedelia, it bumbles and squelches with bright eyes and big clown shoes through soundtracks for summer bike rides and broken winter tears. Plus there's a monkey on the album cover. And for a proto-simian enthusiast such as myself, that's almost enough in itself.

For the more attentive amongst you, this release may not be such a surprise. According to the press release, the eponymous single Plastic Lions has long been a favourite on the radio playlists of Zane Lowe, Steve Lamaq and other such dishwater luminaries. But don't let this put you off. For although much of the album is accessible enough for these lumps of milky mud, Icelander Eberg (a shortening of his real name, Einar Tonsberg) manages to combine such accessibility with consistently interesting tweaks and forays away from the conventional. Indeed, one of the reasons for the album's success is that these two elements of songwriting craft and electronic composition are not merely tacked onto each other to distract from otherwise lacklustre output – rather they are intertwined to provide a sound that provides familiar points of departure but also takes you to some rather interesting and new places as well.

Of course, Eberg isn't the first to work in this sphere, and there are few moments when the ghosts of Radiohead and Air become a little too insistent for comfort. Similarly, when Eberg attempts a more conventional piece of IDM such as Skuffukaka, the results are less than compelling. But when wandering between the lolloping kid-folk of Dreamchild and the divine ballad-with-dove-choir of Smoker In A Film, its hard to resist Eberg’s way with a tune and a burble.

So, Zane Lowe's enthusiasm aside, Plastic Lions is really rather good. To rate it in monkey terms, its not quite a gibbon (the uncrowned king of the long-armed beauty brigade), but it certainly rates as highly as a lemur. Like so many debuts (and so many monkeys), it occasionally strays too wide in its attempts to engage and impress, but these are issues that will almost certainly be ironed out in time for a well-deserved second album. In the meantime, Plastic Lions remains a compelling debut.
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