I’m not sure what happened to Andy Bell but recently he has been on a creative roll. In 2014 he reformed Ride, and in 2017 releasing they’re not only their first new material since 1996, but more importantly their most enjoyable album since, well, ‘Nowhere’. Then last year he put out his debut solo album under his own name. If that wasn’t enough, in between this he started releasing music under the GLOK moniker. These recordings were more electronic in nature. As with Ride, Bell took the conventions of a genre and skewed it into something far more interesting. On the surface GLOK feels like a clubby, narcotic project. He utilises the same wall-of-sound mindset that made Ride’s music the force or nature it way, but with synths and drum machines instead of guitars.
The first GLOK album, 2019’s ‘Dissident’, was less of an album and more of a collection of songs Bell had that he wanted to put out. It was Day-Glo kaleidoscopic affair. One foot in the main room, and the other in the back room. The opening track of ‘Pattern Recognition’ definitely feels like this.
Listening to ‘Dirty Hugs’ reminds me of a club I went to on a stag do in Prague. As we were waiting to pay our money and go in, we could faintly hear the beats, and feel the basslines. The nearer we got the clearer the music appears. As we walked about, finding our bearings sounds seeped from the clubs many rooms, creating a discombobulating atmosphere. As we became accustomed to the layout of the venue everything started to make more sense and we started to really enjoy and feel relaxed with the settings. A hulking beat and phasing bassline do a lot of the heavy lifting on ‘Dirty Hugs,’ but this gives Bell a solid foundation to allow melodies to appear, disappear, and reappear throughout. It sets up the album perfectly. Somehow Andy Bell lays his cards on the table, without actually giving anything away. Which in itself is remarkable.
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After listening to ‘Pattern Recognition’ two things immediately jump out at you. Firstly, Bell has brought some friend into the fold. Vocalists Shiarra, Shamon Cassette, Sinead O’Brien and C.A.R. all appear, giving the album some extra textures ‘Dissident’ was missing. Secondly, there appears to be more guitar this time, but it isn’t always obvious. The final third of ‘Dirty Hugs’ is drenched in them. The combination of static electronic sounds and warming guitar tones works incredibly well and brings to mind Hurricane #1’s underrate monster ‘Rising Sign’.
The standout tracks are ‘Maintaining the Machine’ with Sinead O’Brien and ‘Day Three.’ On ‘Maintaining the Machine’ The music is understated, and slow moving, which allows O’Brien to ask philosophical questions, hinting at answers, but lets you come to your own conclusions. The pairing works so well it leaves more questions; namely will Bell appear on O’Brien’s debut album? Given the strength of this, lets hope so. ‘Day Three’ is the most sombre track on the album. Beatless, and slightly psychedelic, here Bell gracefully meanders around, and through, some melodies. Showing that he can create thought provoking music as well as bangers.
The main problem with ‘Pattern Recognition’ is that its too long. Individually the songs work well. Bell orchestrates his thoughts well, but combined they add up to an 80-minute album. At times they drag. Drag might be a harsh word, but my attention starts to wain at times. Take the album’s closer ‘Invocation’ for example. From the start Bell takes his time, building momentum up slowly. Glacial synths, low tempo beats all mix together well, but it’s just not that exciting. When he gets locked into the groove, about five minutes, I look at the time remaining and there is still 10-minutes left. At 15-minutes it is the second longest track on the album. I like how it acts as a bookend to ‘Dirty Hugs.’ Both set the scene well, but ‘Invocation’ doesn’t really add much to the listening experience. The album might have benefitted from ending with the cinematic ‘Day Three.’
Despite its length ‘Patter Recognition’ is a solid album that exhibits how Bell’s song writing has evolved in the past few years. His ability to write for, and work with, different voices feel like something he’s always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity to try. The melodies on ‘Pattern Recognition’ are some of the best he’s ever crafted, and it feels like his strongest album to date, regardless of the project. The album works best when you are in a mindset where you can lose yourself in the hypnotic motifs Bell creates and recognise, and appreciate, the patterns he has created.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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