Cologne band Von Spar establish early on on the first track of new record Under Pressure that they're equipped with a kinetic fleet footed deftness and touch to ensure a smooth ride to their given destination. This is their fifth album in all and it's immediately apparent that they know exactly what they're doing.
Choosing to work with a series of guest singers though Chris Cummings is the main vocalist on the record, the textures of their songs alternates between a light AOR sound that recalls Chicago, Steely Dan and the Yes of Owner of a Lonely Heart and sleek Krautrock.
I have to say I'm more prone to the latter than the former so when Laetitia Sadler comes on board for Extend the Song things perk up to an enormous degree. It's a jaunty, gorgeous tune, the kind of thing that should be high in singles charts and on the radio all the time but somehow never is.
The band's musical frameworks are never less than inventive, taking someone like me who may not be an enormous devotee of some of their sources of inspiration out of my comfort zone. It's often leads to strange juxtapositions. On Not to Forget for example, musically things veer off into distinct Underworld territory while Cummings meanwhile sounds like Gabriel working his way through the third side of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It has to be said Cummings delivery isn't really my favourite ingredient in the mix but the whole album is eminently listenable.
Vivien Goldman music journalist, academic and sometime musician, (note to Uncut Magazine, she wasn't in The Flying Lizards), turns up on Boyfriend and the track is a frothy treat of pure electro sunshine, like a collaboration between Tom Tom Club and Propaganda. Altogether magical.
Falsetto Giuseppe which follows on and features oddball R.Stevie Moore is another cracker, producing a fine leftfield musical mesh that you imagine Laurie Anderson would relish. Final track Mont Vedoux rejects the need for guest vocals altogether opting instead for a muscular marriage of Neu, Kraftwerk and regrettably occasionally screaming guitars as we career towards our final destination. Altogether, Under Pressure is a highly impressive record and though not all of its ports of call chime with my personal tastes, there's more than enough here to maintain engagement throughout the course of a diverse but strangely cohesive musical and lyrical journey.