I remember first being exposed to Canadian outfit The London Apartments (AKA Justin Langlois) via the Racewillbegin netlabel a while back. It took me a bit of time to get used to what I was hearing. I couldn’t honestly tell if the vocalist was male or female and I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of electronic noodling of any sort. But after repeated listens it became apparent that Justin was onto something. As time went by short little EP’s surfaced here and there on various netlabels and I began to see evidence of charm, warmth and most surprisingly, engaging atmospheric music of the electronic variety.
Which brings us to the newest offering, Romanticism Aside, a 12-song opus of glitchy indie-electronica and dream pop. Originally, Justin recorded using solely his laptop and perhaps a few other added elements but cring not, ye purists of the hi-fi sound, this effort is far more full-sounding and polished, thanks, in no small part, to the use of organic instruments. The music may outwardly appear quiet yet each song is drenched with effects-laden guitars, echoed vocals and/or washes of synth and piano. Many of Justin’s lyrics are hard to decipher as they are usually delivered in such a fragile, breathy and melodramatic manner but from what I can gather they deal with loss, depression and hope. To be honest, the vocals are merely one cog in the wheel as opposed to central focus. They are, more times than not, subtle and so airy that it’s safe to say this album would have been just as captivating without their presence.
Old favorites of mine, ‘Put Your Jacket On’, ‘Circuit’ and ‘Streetlights Are Soldiers’ all resurface on the full-length as slightly reworked renditions, so as to better fit among all the new material on the album. But Justin really pays the rent with ‘Rose City’ and ‘I Know Your Name’. The latter featuring flittering glitchiness, to-die-for ringing guitars in the outro and unearthly vocals. Both songs also probably being the most accessible of the bunch on the album. In my opinion, Romanticism is best experienced through headphones and should be listened to in its entirety as opposed to lopping off songs to put onto a mixtape. The amount of new noise you hear each time you return will never cease to amaze you.
I will be the first to admit as a reviewer I sometimes have trouble sitting down and maintaining the attention span to listen to the same album for more than 1 or 2 spins. I always have a large stack of music I need to listen to somewhere within my peripheral radar, no matter where I look in this room. This room is messy, yet gloriously full of potential. It is frustrating and soothing at the same time. However, once in a while I will pick something out of the pile, listen to it and actually not want to turn it off at all. Romanticism Aside is one of the very few 2005 releases so far this year that has had that effect on me. It’s truly cosmic in scope and delivery and encasing this music in a mere plastic disc is a travesty. Had it existed, this is exactly what the scientists of yore could have sent reeling through space on the first Voyager mission almost 30 years ago. Highly recommended for fans of indie-electronica, dream pop or all things ambient in nature though even rockists should at least spin this once. Bee’s knees, folks.