- The UK electronic mainstays make stark but gorgeous ambient music inspired by Sheffield's brutalist architecture.
- Brutalist architecture is infamously imposing, austere and monolithic. These buildings can feel devoid of emotion, coldly towering over city blocks, inspiring awe as well as hatred. Fascinated and inspired by the prevalence of Brutalism in their hometown of Sheffield, The Black Dog sought to find the soul and warmth hidden beneath the poured concrete. Starting with Dubs, a trilogy of EPs released earlier this spring, The Black Dog channeled the looming presence of their city’s brutalist landmarks into drifting electronic music. The second installation of the series, Brutal, found the group shedding most of their propulsive leanings to focus on ambient minimalism. Music For Photographers follows this thread for an album as beautiful as it is bleak.
The trio envelops the quiet melodies and soft rhythms of Music For Photographers in a cloak of reverb. On first listen, everything feels far away and muffled, one of those records that seems too quiet no matter how loud the volume. Once you get close enough through repeated listens, the chilly exterior begins to crack, revealing something warmer and more welcoming within.
Most of the songs on the LP are made from the same components: foggy drones and light rhythmic elements that gather into an impressionistic swirl. Opener "Dust Bunnies" patiently builds itself into a looping melodic figure, as sustained horn notes overlap with gently cascading filter sweeps. Later, "Bokeh Bokeh Bokeh" starts with a dubby kick pattern, steadily adding percussive flourishes. A static synth drone enters halfway through, eventually shifting into a tense four chord progression, as tiny moments slowly become massive.
The album isn't all stolid and sky-scraping, however. Much like the buildings that inspired them, these tracks open up to reveal stark but pretty interiors, and the details help soften the dense architecture. "Re-Pho-kuss," one of the album's two collaborations with Oliver Ho, begins with a plodding drum pattern and white noise swashes, mimicking the rush of distant traffic. A two-chord vamp flickers to life, ushering in the smooth harmonies of a digital chorus. As a slide guitar peeks around the corners, the song settles into a comfortable groove.
Brutalism began to fall out of favor in the '60s, about a decade or so after its initial boom. By the '80s, many brutalist buildings across the world had been torn down or labeled eyesores. In the past few decades, however, there's been a growing appreciation for the style. Its utopian ideals may have been flawed, but its utilitarian form speaks to a specific modernist vision of the future. The Black Dog understand the worth of documenting that vision. Music For Photographers serves as a soundtrack to brutalism's mystery, determined to find the beauty in the behemoth. Even in its moments of towering chilliness, the album’s gentle allure shines through.
01. Dust Bunnies
02. Vertical Grip On Reality
03. Womersley, Line One
04. Pho-kuss feat. Oliver Ho
06. Norman Foster Knew
07. Bokeh Bokeh Bokeh
08. Re-Pho-kuss feat. Oliver Ho
10. We Are All Memories
11. My Life Is Bracketed
12. Depth Of Future
13. Lightroom Lies, Darkroom Doom
14. For They Love Of Tish
15. Lost In Lines