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the rational academy - A Heart Against Your Own
Scan down the credits on this album and you'll notice more than a few familiar names: Ben Frost, John Chantler and Lawrence English are all contributors to this Brisbane ensemble's debut album. Combining the scrappy pop songs of writing duo Benjamin Thompson and Meredith McHugh with the far more esoteric influence of that aforementioned, more experimental contingent doesn't seem like an especially harmonious marriage, but "A Heart Against Your Own" achieves a sound that doesn't compromise in either department. The entire production is overseen by Lawrence English, whose involvement with the record must stand as his biggest departure yet from the electroacoustics and field recordings we've come to expect from him. Opener 'The Author' establishes a tight synth-pop sound, just one of the various personas the album takes on, and by no means a definitive glimpse of The Rational Academy's sound. After a snappy three minutes of crisp drum machines and tuneful guitars 'JoJo Planteen' introduces a few more abstract elements, from crackling electronic background textures through the initial phases of the piece to the Sonic Youth sized wall of feedback and distortion that serves as a conclusion. The band are equally at home dispensing concise two-minute pop songs on their guitars as they are dabbling in more experimental fare, with 'David' and 'Airport Nation' keeping things simple while the likes of 'Two Books' has all the stylistic ADD of a Deerhunter record, laying down a creamy, hard rocking fuzz one moment (think Siamese Dream era Smashing Pumpkins) and breaking down into icy, disciplined micro-drone the next. Similarly, 'Squid & Whale' starts out like Yo La Tengo only for the shambling alt. rock developments to abruptly disappear, being replaced by a sea of harmonious sustain which then itself transforms into something wholly more ominous and layered with jags of noise. "A Heart Against Your Own" is one of those rare albums that takes the fundamentals of the guitar band format and somehow organically expands upon that framework, incorporating the modernity of the electronic avant-garde without you even noticing you're listening to something as awkward and experimental as it actually is. Massive Recommendation.