Album Review: Stewart Walker – Ivory Tower Broadcast (Mundo Records)

ivory tower broadcast

Tue, September 09, 2014  

After a 7 year hiatus Stewart Walker returns to release his new album on Swiss imprint Mundo Recordings

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With much lauded dancefloor-oriented albums under his belt, on this outing Walker merges folk music, shoe gaze indie and electronics and delivers a varied listening album.

The album fits Walker’s enigmatic artistic persona very well. Ivory Tower Broadcast sounds like an emission from a secluded space free from generic constraints. The only track which hints to the dancefloor is Shakemaps, a rhythm track of barely three minutes. The other 11 tracks are a mixture of the above-mentioned genres.

The first (Desolation Peak) and last track (Feeling of Reeling) are an austere mix of guitar strumming and constraint noise in combination with a slowly trotting beat. Something I Can’t Remember and Rose Machine are beautiful tracks which both, in their own way, provoke feelings of melancholia. The former has a contemplative, bittersweet melody line. And the latter is one of the album’s best: its fuzzy beats and widescreen guitar paint a picture of a sweltering hot summer afternoon.

The dark edges of the album appear in tracks like Gone at First Light and Exits Have Been Chained (for Security). The first is an ominous track with eerie electronics and the second has a paranoid and estranged sound fused together out of stuttering beats and industrial sound design. Passing Through continues in the same vein: the irregular beats and desolate feel could be compared to early releases on WARP.

Special mention should go to Candycoated: jagged, shuffled beats and playful sounds seem haphazard and arbitrary at first glance. But the genius of the track appears when the separate sounds merge together into a cohesive track. And a beautiful moment of contemplation is provided by Caught in the Switches created out of treated piano and phased synths.

According to the press release, Ivory Tower Broadcast serves as a metaphor of the music studio where the producer creates his tracks free from outside pressures or expectations. The tracks could be seen as the various mind-sets provoked by long periods of seclusion and demand full immersion from the listener.

8/10 - by Patrice Knap

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