- Kenny Glasgow's first solo album since dissolving Art Department—what he called his "creative marriage" with Jonny White—has been released by his former partner's label, No. 19 Music, but that's not the only thing about Circus Tales that suggests Glasgow hasn't completely stepped out from his group's shadow. The music's morose atmosphere recalls Art Department LPs like 2011's The Drawing Board and 2014's lacklustre follow-up, Natural Selection, both of which—despite peak-time anthems like "Without You"—often sounded more suitable for an existential crisis than hedonistic euphoria. But where that feeling came largely from Glasgow's heavy-hearted lyrics and wounded voice on Art Department tracks, on Circus Tales it stems from his his sparse and spiky productions.
Ironically, this solo album bears less of the artist's individuality than his work in a duo. With the exception of "Individuals" and "Action/Reaction," you can hardly hear Glasgow's voice at all (and his tenor adds little to the dull arrangements on those two). This isn't a reinvention, but rather a return to the sort of inhuman machine grooves of 2009's Taste For The Low Life. The way a robot voice intones the title of "Come On" sounds like an invitation to a doctor's waiting room rather than a dance club, even as the track builds from a melancholy opening to a dance floor crescendo. For "Everything Is Breath," which eschews a beat to be carried on pinging synths, the vocal sample ("Take a deep breath / In and out") seems like someone giving a dying dance floor the kiss of life.
Not that Circus Tales always needs resuscitation. Its sound may be on the darker end of the spectrum, but it's not completely monotone. Check "Prototype," with its disorienting wash of vocals and pulse-racing beat, or the way the wordless female vocal and low-lit synths of "Communication Meltdown" make it an authentic-sounding '90s deep house simulacrum. On the other hand, there's the underwhelming opener "Interactive Entertainment" and the awkward, sputtering "Response From Mars," both of which feel much longer than their five minutes. Glasgow has never shirked away from a proper marathon either, which isn't great when he stretches "Transformation" out for an unjustified 13 minutes. The almost as lengthy "Be Strong," however, locks you into the sort of 3AM twilight zone you never want to leave. It's hardly a new direction for Glasgow, but it's a path that has served him well for the past 20 years.
01. Interactive Entertainment
02. Come On
03. Response From Mars
05. Everything Is Breath
07. Communication Meltdown