Malcolm Middleton – Summer of ’13
Electronica experiment from ex-Arab Strap man doesn’t quite push all the right buttons
Arab Strap may have been infamous for their bedsit miserablism, but they weren’t immune from creating the odd clubby moment. While Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton’s dance-based offerings conjured up last-orders desperation or floors sticky with booze, sweat and other less savoury substances, Middleton’s latest solo venture is a full-on electronic beast produced to an inch of its life, evoking the pristine safety of a studio hub.
Middleton’s transformation from indie guitar anti-hero to would-be synth pop star gets a leg-up from Glasgow producer Miaoux Miaoux who appears to indulge the singer’s publicised lack of vocal confidence by masking, muffling, speeding up, slowing down and vocoding his voice out of recognition with the prodding of a few buttons. The overall effect is a general lack of focus interrupted by the odd smattering of promise.
His album’s title track is a headspinning psychedelic mash which occasionally allows Middleton back in with a childhood-rhyme paean to three years ago while ‘Music Ticks’ curiously borrows, whether consciously or not, from both ‘Chariots of Fire’ and the late Colin ‘Black’ Vearncombe’s ‘Wonderful Life’ to concoct an overtly 80s soundscape. The trance-infused ‘Big Black Hole’ is arguably Summer of ’13’s best moment with the production allowing the song to soar rather than throwing it off the cliffs while the closing song ‘Lullaby’ is anything but.
You could pick several tracks from the collection which point directly towards Middleton’s total metamorphosis from laconic singer-songwriter to wildly over-produced laconic singer-songwriter. But for this reviewer’s money, ‘Information in the Voice’ acts as the template, starting off as close kin to Eminem before channelling Kanye and fizzling out to very little. Summer of ‘13 could ultimately be the seed of something sensational down the line, but Middleton seems to have allowed the knob-twiddlers to swamp his ambition rather than help it to flourish.
Out Fri 27 May on Nude Records.