Boomkat Product Review:
Lee Gamble considers the impact of vocals and hooks on 'Models', using emerging technologies and machine learning to fashion uncanny pop music that links Liz Fraser's mysterious lingual tics with rave's disembodied diva loops and the hoarse rasp of trip-hop. For our money it's his most satisfying full-length to date, an earworm-addled/emo pop record that's as strange, poignant and haunted as his breakout 'Diversions 1994-1996'.
Over the last few years, Gamble has become fascinated with the concept of the earworm - the sounds we absorb unknowingly and can't wrestle away from. They can be good or bad: they can be the hook from Inner City's 'Good Life', or they can be a carcinogenic, committee-developed saccharine injection. On 'Models', Gamble microscopically unpacks the vocal music that's stayed with him over the years - like Cocteau Twins, Tricky and more recently Future and Lil Uzi Vert - and attempts to extract its essence. It’s not pop music, exactly, but uses its techniques to inspire a suite of radio-friendly miniatures that reflect pop's charm and counter its plasticity.
A wandering, cybernetic cry introduces us to 'Purple, Orange', singing in wordless, fantasy dialect while Gamble stretches reverb into euphoria. It only lasts a moment before 'Juice' arrives like a half-cut recollection of '90s trance; delirious arpeggiated synths cough over bass drops, but it's the voice that provides the focus. There are plenty of artists tapping this wellspring right now, from Malibu to Courtesy, but Gamble avoids being drowned by nostalgia, preferring to imagine his own fertile emotional landscape. On lead single 'She's Not' he takes another sharp turn, layering peculiar, shoegaze guitars that coax us into a saturated, stadium-ready hook.
Despite being his most rigorously mechanical album, 'Models' is also Gamble's most fluid and emotional, pulling on heartstrings and recollections as if moulded out of private, personal putty. Decidedly British, it's a look back at history that imagines an alternate future that's aware of the steady creep of technology, but never at its mercy. It might be the most hopeful record we've heard this year, and certainly one of the best.