Donnacha Costello - Before We Say Goodbye

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  • Donnacha Costello is no fool. He knows that you don't have the time or even the energy to listen to his fourth album in one go. But rather than bemoan how we listen to music in 2010, he's gone ahead and done something about it. Before We Say Goodbye is a quick 50 minutes. Just long enough to soundtrack your commute to work. (Or, in the case of a fellow traveling DJ, the airport.) Seven minute dance floor-oriented tracks are for the club. Four of the nine songs here don't even break five minutes. It's a utilitarian move, but it's also one that responds to reality. What do you play when you're making dinner? Slugabed results in bloody onions, and The Caretaker makes you question the value of eating altogether. Before's mid-paced melodic techno is just right. This isn't to say that the album isn't worth a close listen. After all, the attention of Costello's imagined commuter is undivided. Suffused with Costello's distinctive and warm melodies—crafted here via the 101, Prophet 5, Synclavier—it's almost bursting with emotion. The Irish producer's work since he founded his Look Long imprint last year has followed the same path as much of what you'll find on Before, focusing itself as much on trying to make you feel as it is with trying to make you move your feet. In 12-inch format, this can often be an almost futile endeavor. ("We only need one track for the end of the night, Donnacha, thank you.") As part of a full-length, it's a welcome change of pace. Despite the intense amount of care that's gone into making Before as coherent a full-length as possible, it also serves as its greatest weakness. Costello obviously takes great pleasure in finding a new way to present the Synclavier. But 50 minutes of the same synthesizers used to (largely) the same ends is just as wearying as 50 minutes of go-nowhere-minimal-bongo-house. There are moments that should signal respite: Three minute ambient interludes like "With Me Still" or "The Tug," which bookend the majestic ambient techno of "Stretching Time" for instance. But the only thing separating their timbre is a four-four beat. There is no respite here from the melancholy or, for that matter, the tools that Costello uses to achieve it. Sustained mood pieces are lovely to sink into. Depressive techno heads, lonely commuters, gear heads and many more will find plenty to love. As an album, however, Before We Say Goodbye is too emotionally one-note to rise above its status as "pretty good" into "essential" territory, leaving listeners better off to pick their favorites—exactly the opposite of what Costello likely had in mind.
  • Tracklist
      01. Leaving Berlin 02. A Warm Embrace 03. It's What We Do 04. No-one Is Watching 05. Roll It Out 06. With Me Still 07. Stretching Time 08. The Tug 09. The Last Train Home