Updated: Feb 2, 2022
Folktronica artist Peter Talisman’s latest offering has a lot going for it. Atmospheric, well-produced and having beautiful attention to detail, it’s a kaleidoscope of interesting and often contradictory sounds vying for our attention. And, judging from the rather clear-cut and pedantic track titles (such as We Have to Leave this Town Because I Have Done Something Unforgivable), it seems the album has a concept and a storyline at heart as well, which is just about every music critic’s favourite thing anyway.
Talisman portrays the contentment of home life well, through pleasant folk guitar finger-picking and ambient vocals that seem to come out through a fog onto the texture. And yet there’s always this sense of tension between this carefree bliss and the more electronic and abstract textures he creates, using elements of white noise, post-dubstep barrages and vocals manipulated with vocoders to give everything this electronic sheen, roughening the home-spun charm. The two styles seem just about able to live together, but neither seems happy about it, as the ‘noise’ element constantly encroaches on the softer parts.
Tracks such as Dance of the Equinox and Live from Cley Hill have the folk at their centre, but there’s always these ‘avant-garde’, distorted rumblings at the bottom that interrupt and want to break through. The feeling of homeliness and nostalgia is always there, but it’s like we’re viewing it from an alien lens, making the familiar and contented seem unfamiliar and jarring. We know we’re home, but there’s this nagging feeling that there’s something wrong.
At times, it all feels reminiscent of other artists who’ve dabbled in electronica. The post-dubstep clattering and vocoder vocals in The Absolute Scene at Stanton Drew for instance is reminiscent of James Blake’s debut with its stark minimalism. However, the LP lacks the scope that’s made other artists like Blake sound so utterly down in the depths. Talisman keeps toying between darker and lighter shades, with the childish melody in One for the Road, or the Middle Eastern feel to Haha Fucking Quest, feeling more tongue-in-cheek as Talisman tells his story.
It’s a very well made album, and at its best moments can even be brilliant. The production is there and the ability to shape it into sound worlds of endearing mystery is an important feature. However, it doesn’t exploit the full explosive and dramatic potentials of the sounds it uses. Overall though, the good definitely outweighs the bad. Anyone interested in electronic music with a difference should definitely give this a listen.