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  Indoor Miner  

Junkboy's last album, Three, released back in the spring of 2008 was a beautifully arranged set that at various times brought to mind two of my all-time favourite albums in The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Nick Drake's Bryter Layer. Indeed I liked the opening track, Volcano Mono, so much I included it in my 100 Songs Of The Decade list for the recent Evilsponge 10th Anniversary lists. The ambition didn't end with the musical arrangements either as Junkboy AKA brothers Mik and Rich Hanscombe promised that the next album was going to be even better. Well this follow-up has certainly taken a while, and whilst I'm not totally convinced they have succeeded in improving on Three, there's still much to be enjoyed here on Koyo.

The same influences are still present, too. Firth opens like a Bryter Layter instrumental with a bit of Ravel's Bolero thrown in for good measure, whilst On The Shore features a Nick Drake-like intro before some almost baroque vocals enter proceedings. The Brian Wilson influence is well served, too. Friends doesn't just share the title of one of their albums, it is very Beach Boys like in sound, too - not just melodically but in the arrangements and instrumentation. There's some nice bass playing, too! Elsewhere Home has a melody that would happily grace a My Bloody Valentine album, whilst Function Of The Sun is very Ultra Vivid Scene, which is no bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

The two highlights for me, however, are probably Pieces Of The Sky and Dr. Rendezvous. Pieces Of The Sky initially sounds like it's going to be a little too whimsical, but it develops into something rather beautiful as the brass and woodwind compete over the drums. In contrast, Dr. Rendezvous, which is probably the centrepiece of the album, is similar in feel to the aforementioned Volcano Mono. It opens with a mournful piano intro that The Wild Swans would be proud of, before some finger picked guitar work and horns take the track into a totally different direction as it veers from "soothing" to "out-there" and back in a flicker. Like much of Koyo, which apparently means "gentle sunlight", it's an ambitious piece of work.

The album, however, dips somewhat about two thirds of the way through for me. Present is rather forgettably twee and although the almost Gordon Giltrap-like Stendhai Syndrome isn't a bad track by any means, neither is it the finest instrumental Junkboy have ever come up. Ghosts, meanwhile, is an acoustic number that doesn't really go anywhere. Even so, it brings to mind the type of gentler number that would have graced side two of any number of 70s rock albums, and comes with an added shoe-gazey feel about it, so if that prospect sounds like an enticing one, you may well like this one!

Things are soon back on track, however, with the aforementioned On The Shore and Let The Light, with its hushed Dark Captain Light Captain-like vocals, before Koyo ends with an interesting one in Tones X. It opens percussively and features some almost motorik beat with flutes over the top before some unexpected dirty guitars intrude from nowhere. Could this be where Junkboy are heading next? Whatever, I for one will certainly be wanting to find out.

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   Album: Three


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