(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
Back in 2005 I reviewed what was the debut CD by datapuddle, then a duo from the UK consisting of Alex Vlad and Steve Huddleston. That album, We are datapuddle, was nothing to be ashamed of, in fact it was really rather good - a whimsical and charming collection of songs that was still quirky and experimental enough to make it stand out from the crowd.
My comment about it being an album not to be ashamed of is relevant here because datapuddle are putting I Risk Losing My Shine forward as their first real album, which might suggest that they’re distancing themselves from We are datapuddle. They’re not but it’d be a shame if that earlier collection of songs was entirely forgotten, though datapuddle have certainly grown from the duo they were in 2005 to now being a four-piece. And it’s not just the size of the band that has grown because their sound has become a bit more expansive in the process too.
When I reviewed We are datapuddle I described their sound as like some kind of intriguing mixture of Elbow, The Beta Band and Lemon Jelly, combining the indie, almost nu-prog sound of the first, the frequent use of loops and electronica of the second, and the whimsical use of technology of the latter. The other thing that datapuddle had, and still have in common with those bands is a characteristically English sound and it now occurs to me that datapuddle most obviously fit into the folktronica style, though the band themselves prefer the more elaborate "eclectic lo-fi electrofolkadelic head bumf" and I’m not going to argue with them. The new album does have a slightly rockier and more expansive sound to it, maybe more like a band than a duo, but the basic sound and style of songwriting is still much the same.
A quick skim through the track titles from the two albums suggests that they’ve largely been busy working on entirely new songs since 2005. I was extremely interested to note, however, that one of my very favourite tracks from “We are datapuddle” has resurfaced on I Risk Losing My Shine, the fabulous “Rhythm Gremlins”. It’s still the same song but this is quite a different version. It still retains it’s very Elbow-like elements and it’s essentially the same track but the arrangement has been spruced up a bit. If I’m honest, I think I prefer the original but that’s probably just because it’s the first version I heard and I very much took it to my heart. My guess is that if the version on I Risk Losing My Shine is the first version you hear then you’ll love it.
There are also some brand new highlights on this album, including the entirely instrumental opener which also happens to be the title track, a pretty tune characteristic of the datapuddle sound that builds nicely from gently rippling electronics via an impressive intermingling crescendo of musical ideas.
There’s also the appropriately titled “Laughing Song”, an extremely upbeat, infectious and jolly almost country-rock-style instrumental that appears half-way through the album. It’s not even two-and-half minutes in length but acts as a brilliant and engaging interlude within the middle of the album and is nicely placed before the new version of the dramatic “Rhythm Gremlins”.
And immediately after “Rhythm Gremlins” comes another highlight, a charming but nevertheless slightly edgy piece of folktronica called “Dinosaur Bones” and I particularly like the lyrical refrain, "I’m letting the bad blood run away" that appears towards the end of this track.
The album ends with appealing electro-rock instrumental “Likelihood” and the song “Scuffing”, which ends the album on a rousing and almost epic note.
The information I got from the band about the CD states that they’re hopeful people will enjoy their album but also notes that even if they don’t, it’s not that lengthy. Thankfully I did very much enjoy “I Risk Losing My Shine” and would recommend it strongly, particularly if you’re looking for some interesting and quirky rock crossed with some delightful folktronica. In these days of 70 minute-odd CDs full of filler material, the album’s relative brevity (it’s only 35 minutes long) is just another thing in its favour.
Best tracks: “I Risk Losing My Shine”, “Laughing Song”, “Rhythm Gremlins”, “Dinosaur Bones”, “Likelihood”.