Capitol K
Happy Happy

By Ed Chamberlin

 
'So, what music do you like?' Don't you hate that question? Although, potentially, an accurate answer would easily dwarf the most hardcore dissertation, you are expected to sum up your taste as a brief pleasantry, resorting to a non-committal 'oh, all sorts, you know'.

We have access to more music than any generation before us. With the unfathomably enormous selection of music, of all styles, that is available to us on the radio, TV, in clothes stores, kebab houses and when you're waiting to be put through to the gas company, it is inconceivable that anyone should have a taste in music so narrow that it can be explained in one breath. Hell, even the massive, soulless retailers like HMV and Virgin Megastores have realised the diversity of sound out there, cunningly dividing it into pop/rock (although it should be pointed out that S Club 7 and Throbbing Gristle can both be found in this section), dance, metal and jazz, which is usually tucked away in the basement like an embarrassing relative.

You get the feeling that Kristian Robinson, mastermind behind Capitol K, is tired of the question too, judging by the variety of styles he pays homage to on Happy Happy. Indie, post-rock, jazz, disco, 60s pop, experimental and electronica are all ingredients in his heady stew, and he's brought a bunch of friends along, most notably the Stockhausenphex Twin programming god, Leafcutter john.

Love in Slow Motion is a perfect opener, almost too perfect if you follow the High Fidelity mixtape rule of starting with room to get better. It's simply excellent. It begins live, drenched in reverb and fires off glitched-up cuts, before random notes etch their way from high to low frequency, as though Robinson Jackson Pollock-ed his ProTools composition screen. A Krautrock groove (the best of all grooves, quite frankly) comes in and turns the song from post-rock to pop as the sweet vocals deadpan away and the Pollock synthline blossoms into a gorgeous melody.

Amazingly, Frankenstein maintains the high quality with a dubby-electro torch song. The lilting strings and playfully melodramatic mid-section reveals a man with too many ideas for every bar he composes. Gunfighter shows no dearth of invention as it squelches funkily along with post-punk guitars, call and response vocals and warm cellos.

The style-jamming comes thick and fast from there on with the synth-pop of the title track, the Moroder glam rock of New York and the frankly bizarre Prayer For Peace, which is impressive, but the later ideas seem half-baked or too underdeveloped to have the same jaw-dropping impact of the first few tracks. Happy Happy suffers from being too top-heavy, the opening salvo making you take for granted the idea that incredible fusions of style will be unquestioningly served to you. It's unfair because many of the later tracks are excellent.

Tger standouts for its minimalism, as a lonesome piano and synth waltz awkwardly together in space, and evocative falsetto vocals croon melodically away.

The noticeable difference between Happy Happy and Capitol K's previous (and, for my money, superior) album Island Row is how the stylistic influences are more defined here. While Island Row also had the tendency to skip unremittingly between styles and sounds, but loaded the influences in the same gun and fired, Happy Happy seems to be firing its ideas from separate sources hoping to reach a common target. When this works (as on Love In Slow Motion) the results are explosive and brilliant, but the misfires prevent many tunes from igniting. Sorry about all the gun references, I've just been watching Bowling For Columbine.

 Out now on Faith and Industry Records
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