The opportunity was there, no doubt, for Lloyd Cole to jump on the revival bandwagon. After all, the way he dropped literary references into his keenly observed tales of life and love were second only to a certain Stephen Morrissey at his height. However, his new record, 1D Electronics is, as the title suggests, a move away from the guitar pop with which he made his name.
Instead, Cole has produced an album of eleven tracks of largely ambient electronic music, none of which feature those keller lyrics, or indeed his vocal at all. To some who heard his 2013 electronic collaboration with composer Hans Joachim Roedelius, it might not be such a surprise, given that Cole ended up building his own modular synth for that project. Indeed, 1D at times feels both like an extension of that album, and cast-offs from it.
That’s not to say its a bad album. Cole himself describes the songs as being “originally created with overdubs by another in mind. Some were simply experiments. One or two may have had loftier ambitions”, adding, “None of the pieces involves the use of a piano keyboard or a computer, except to record it.” Some of the shorter pieces, such as the overlapping One Voice, or the bubbling Pertronics, with its cold, twinkling echoes fall into the experimental ideas, as interesting as they are.
Where the record, and indeed Cole, come into their own, are on the more developed (usually longer) tracks. Renes (despite it being less that 3 minutes) overlaps the melodies on top of each other, but still lets there be space between things for it to breathe. Ken-O, possible the albums stand out track, is a different proposition altogether. Almost five minutes in length, and much more easy on the ear, it gradually builds up, this shuffling beat and unfurling chords in the background letting the little snatches of melody interplay with each other skillfully. Its where the record becomes genuinely beautiful.
Elsewhere, Cole manages to keep the interest, often a skill in itself with electronic music. The clever build up of Autogyro and the pulsating The Bund being a case in point. Its actually nice to see Lloyd Cole following his creative want, and still managing to create a commotion or two, albeit gentle, along the way.