Belong – Common Era
The Skinny: They are back and are armed…
The review proper: … with a drum machine and vocals.
Stream – ‘Come see’
Let’s get the obvious nostalgia out of the way: October Language was a beautiful album. But it came out a long time ago. Time and tide wait for no man nor musician. So Belong changed their sound. Some of it, anyways. You still have the thick, layered glitchy ambient with the right amount of reverb to make it sound like a lucid dream. A good one.
Whereas their previous album, the fantastic October Language , was all about atmospheric layers stacked all over with every sound bleeding together, Common Era adds an almost dancey beat, as if Belong found a TR-909 under a ditch, programmed it and then submerged it in a tub full of water. Their sound changed a little, but the form is still there: extremely reverberated, dreamy and distant.
This detachment is what sold me on Belong in the first place. Thoughts and feelings flying through the ether, but now with a constant drumbeat sometimes reminding you that you need to eventually come back to Earth and live your life.
There’s a few points where you might take refuge if the change (which isn’t as drastic as suggested) is not to your liking. ‘Keep still’ and ‘Common era’ go for their old dreamy soundscapes, but be warned, these moments are few and it’s a good thing that the band is challenging themselves. Why stay in a comfort zone and redo an album again and again? If you have the creative control, ride it til the cows come home.
So Belong did and the more noticeable change is the apparition of vocals, which, as every other instrument, has been processed so much that it becomes another layer in the strata. Check ‘A walk’, where the voice wails eternally, becoming another instrument in a haunting atmosphere. ‘Come see’ is one punchy way to start the album and it grabbed me from the get-go.
Some other songs, like ‘Never came close’ and ‘Make me return’ are a little too similar, so the album is not entirely flawless. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a great album, though, and the similarities are that detrimental to the songs, it just takes a bit out of their potential. You still have some great songs (‘Keep Still’, ‘Common era’, ‘Come see’) and one heckuva crazy album closer, the chaotic, ‘Very careful’.
Has the band changed? Yes, as we all change. Is the album enjoyable? Yes, of course I enjoyed it, but your mileage may vary. The drum machine might make it sound like something out of the 80s, but the production value (and that noise, oh God, that lovely chunky noise that defines Belong to me) is top notch. Check Common Era in the links provided, if you like some droning atmospheric music done right!
About the author: If we gave number grades at this site, it would be WAY more than 5.9.