Phenomonology – The Mining Co. (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

I seem to remember reviewing a previous album a couple of years ago by The Mining Co. (which is the brainchild of Michael Gallagher, a singer/songwriter originally from Ireland but living in London) I think it was a blend of country and folk and I must have liked it because, aside from the fact I rarely dislike any music that falls my way, I actively selected this from the pile.

So, would this be the same again? Another group of songs in the Americana vein?

Well, no is the shortest answer.

You see instead of re-treading the same path, things have gone intergalactic and by that, I mean it’s all spacey and sci-fi with electronic instruments replacing guitars and drums.

It’s quite a change in mood but there is still a hint that maybe these songs started life as country songs but were put to a different backdrop later. There are twinges of an American drawl here and there, but the voice does seem to fit the calming songs perfectly.

There is a feel of ‘one man and a laptop’ throughout the album and the song’s centre more on storytelling than emotions and this gives the album a disconnected feeling, a little like listening to a news bulletin (think the radio teleplay of War of the Worlds set against synth music).

It’s dreamy, ethereal and the sci-fi hook is plain to hear, I’m just not sure if putting all the eggs in one basket was the best choice. It’s one giant leap (see what I did there?) to move from folk to electronic when perhaps an evolution over the course of the album may have worked better. 

Gallagher’s voice sits above the music and reminds me of the album by Noah and the Whale called ‘The Last Night on Earth’, which was a commercial hit a few years ago and blended folk elements and electronic music perfectly. It isn’t until we reach track seven, one of the standout tracks, ‘Submariner’ that we encounter drums or a beat. Up until then the songs are a little too calm for my liking with nothing reaching above second gear. From here on the album changes in feel and the risks are higher, the sounds are more dramatic, and the album feels like it finds it’s stride with ‘Freaks’ (which is perhaps a nod to American band Eels?) ‘Storyline’, ‘Universal Son’ and closer ‘Beatify’.

It’s a concept album of sorts, but it feels in places that it could do with some oomph. Perhaps the mood of the album is meant to convey the open space and eeriness of the universe, but at times it screams out for something out of the ordinary.

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