Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2007 album from the British Folk/Pop duo. Dark On Fire, their fourth album, has been called a 'return to form'. Many would claim this to be a natural successor to their debut album, The Optimist, still a staple in many record collections. Produced by Ethan Johns of Kings of Leon/Ray Lamontagne/Ryan Adams fame. EMI. 2007.
Personnel: Olly Knights (vocals, guitar); Gale Paridjanian (guitar, ukulele, Mellotron, background vocals); Perry Mason, Warren Zielinski (violin); Rachel Bolt, Peter Lale (viola); Paul Kegg, Anthony Pleeth (cello); Rob Allum (drums, background vocals); Ethan Johns (drums).
Audio Mixer: Ethan Johns.
Recording information: Olympic Studios, London, England; The Pool Room, Miloco Studios, London, England.
Photographers: Eddie Myer; Olly Knights; Paul Wesley Griggs; Gale Paridjanian; Hamish Brown.
Though a departure from their previous works, Dark on Fire is a welcome change for Turin Brakes that should appeal to fans old and new. The group flirts with both garage rock and new wave/post-punk revival on this offering, but don't settle on either style. Rather than sounding inconsistent, the approach emphasizes the indie rockers' versatility and showcases Olly Knights' haunting, unconventional vocals. Dark on Fire is evenly divided between introspection and more upbeat (if not cheerful) numbers, though their ability to work as a well-honed ensemble is a constant throughout. The album does tend toward the lighter side -- even the more rollicking songs aren't particularly hard or heavy -- and has a certain transparency to it, with each layer (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and occasionally piano, strings, or keyboards) clearly audible and given equal weight.
Nowhere is this more evident than on the album's title track. Beginning with muted guitar chords and a nearly androgynous vocal delivery from Knights (who is matched by the tight harmonies from fellow guitarist/vocalist Gale Paridjanian), "Dark on Fire" builds slowly, eventually integrating strings and understated percussion. It's ethereal, moving and quietly powerful, with a chorus that ebbs, flows and lingers even after the song is over. Its placement in the middle of the album seems deliberate -- preceded and followed by more guitar-driven numbers, the song is set apart, making its stark emotion even more pronounced. Beyond the album's centerpiece, Dark on Fire has much more to offer. Each of the album's tracks is strong enough to stand on its own; there is enough variation among the songs to keep things interesting, but enough stylistic cohesion to avoid any jarring inconsistencies. The first two tracks, "Last Chance" and "Ghost," immediately make the case for Turin Brakes' strengths, highlighting both the band's refined approach and cool attitude. The combination does make for a misstep with the somewhat overwrought "New Star" ("Here Comes the Moon" would have made a fine closer), but it's forgivable for a band that branches out with beautiful results. ~ Katherine Fulton