For the past three years, relinquished Tuung leader and folktronica artisan, Sam Genders, has been committed to the restraints of a primary school classroom, where he has been working as a teaching assistant. In the confines of his Streatham-Hill teachers’ lounge, Genders was composing more than just future lesson plans. It was during this academic stint, through all the mathematics and phonics, that his latest project Diagrams was created.
Like chalk to a blackboard, Genders has wiped clear the minimal acoustic electronics akin to his past project. In its place, Diagrams experiments on concentrated polyrhythms perpendicular to jagged, leftfield pop precision.
Succeeding the release of last year’s self-titled EP, Genders ferrets further through angular folk foundations and eclectic, synth-tinged electronica. As Diagram’s first full-length, Black Light is an exploration of musical postmodernism; an accolade to DIY production and bedroom-based craftsmanship. With the aid of fellow post-pop luminaries, Micachu and Fever Ray’s co-producer, Subliminal Kid, Black Light’s ten songs swell like a yawning Gruff Rhys over impolite electro-beats and jazzed out melodies.
As Gender’s categorically undeniable vocals illustrate fantastical dreamscapes of baking bread and flying towards icy mountains. The surrealism of tracks such as bluesified opener, Ghost Lit and the drone-like cooing of Animals intensify through sporadic guitar twinkles and visceral harmonies.
With recent incursions of chillwave-esque, indie-pop schtick, Black Light pans out like a compilation of sonic speculation, similar to that of Metronomy or a bullish Broadcast. Genders’ ideas have never been so bountiful. While the punchy snare stutters of Tall Buildings gallop around well patterned acoustic picking, the fetching sounds of John Martyn omit from Peninsula’s descending xylophones and polished drum loops.
Yet, as unpredictable and elusive Diagrams have exhibited, the overall effect is that of fascination over fun. Genders’ lyrical delicacy seasons a batch of songs splurging over like a progressive pop think tank at boiling point. The absurd 8-bit blips resonating throughout the self-titled track, Black Light, are saved only by the charm and allure of soft, humbling vocal rhythms. The ethereal imagery conjured in Night All Night induces only enough of an acid flashback to assimilate any emotional fulfilment.
Conceptually, Genders has delivered a record equally as approachable as it is esoterically bewildering. Black Light’s irrationality is paralleled by its impeccable production standards and will for adventure. And while, at times, the effect may be somewhat confusing, even unnecessary, Diagrams’ debut proves Genders to be a pioneering player in the exploration of contemporary pop music.
by Tom Watson