- "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." A cliché, but one that aptly describes Mark O'Sullivan's Fragments from a Long Country. Apparently inspired by O'Sullivan's impending fatherhood as well as an interest in Gaelic, it's an engaging electronic selection—a concept album that doesn't seek refuge in pomposity but, on the contrary, takes you places without sounding formulaic.
"She Stood There Laughing" leads us in gently but firmly, a bass kick and a plucked string marching through an orchestrated backdrop with a tightly coiled percussive break to keep things under scrutiny. The warm squelch and analogue synth funk of "Come Over" is the opposite; it's a simple groove that would work well with a well-chosen vocal. Things start building with "Polar" which increases the momentum and the depth but runs aground on the evocatively named "Steam." Strings feature heavily on this record, and nowhere more so than on "Within You," a track that calls to mind a madrigal-playing string quartet. It's a piece that, in its melancholic restraint, hints at the disorder to come.
"The Game," meanwhile, is a slam dance in the eye of the storm with a bleak vocal repeated under a barrage of low-end filth. "Take You Tripping" mines a similar vein at a higher seam while "iDub" cools things down with a portentously optimistic arrangement. Maybe it's just me, but the squelches and squeals of "Who" would have likely sounded better earlier in the sequence (if sequence is at all important here). The album does end on a high, though, with "Fragment," which contains echoes of some of the other tracks, but builds on them to create a euphoric march across the steppes.
Recalling the heyday of mid-'90s techno in feel and intent, O'Sullivan has crafted an inspired blend of the fragile and funky. Fragments from a Long Country speaks for itself without needing any specific context; O'Sullivan's subtlety is evident throughout on what is, on the one hand deceptively simple and on the other unerringly complex. A very accomplished piece of work.
01. She Stood There Laughing
02. Come Over
05. Within You
06. When You Come Over
07. The Game
08. Take You Tripping