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Album Review: Dan le Sac - Space Between the Words

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4/5

Space Between the Words is not a cheerful album. From the opening bars of the terse Long Night of Life, as folk singer Merz calls out "life gets tired of living/devoid of light," it is clear that the Essex-based producer is aiming somewhere between the bleak sound of '80s indie and dingy urban electronica.

And to his credit, the mix is just about right. The beats grind away in the background but never quite overpower the sparse, ethereal instrumentation. The largely obscure guest vocalists, including Sarah Williams White, Joshua Idehen and Pete Hefferan, each add their own style to their respective tracks, leading to a vague narrative structure as they reappear at various points.

Musically, Space Between the Words is more accessible than Dan le Sac's previous work, his abrasive keyboard bleeps of former albums replaced by a more fluid sound in the mould of liquid dubstep. Think Magnetic Man, only slightly more introverted.

This, then, is not a dance album for the clubs, but rather one that is intended to be appreciated on a more cerebral level, to be played in full without interruption or distraction and preferably on a well-specced sound system. It's grimy, intense music - not catchy in the slightest, and not at all ashamed of it. For those who enjoy the album, this will its main appeal - it does not fall back on what has gone before, but rather moves on, drawing on its influences and then updating and expanding them.

Highlights include the minimalist Breathing Underwater, an electro-folk dirge featuring Fraser Rowan and a surging string arrangement; Good Time Gang War, a B.Dolan grime collaboration that threatens a dubstep drop but instead teases the listener with lurching house beats; and the glorious closer Cherubs, the standout track on the album, perfectly pitched between late Radiohead and Morrissey's sombre ballads.

Ultimately, while Space Between the Words may lack the brilliantly poetic and philosophical lyrics of Dan le Sac's work with Scroobius Pip, it does make up for this with a subtler musical approach and more polished production values. It's unlikely to be the soundtrack to your summer, but instead will endure as a slick, brooding work of modern electronica.

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