If you are unfamiliar to the band Abney Park, you are either new to the Steampunk sub-culture or have somehow ducked any and all reference to them ubiquitously scattered throughout the aether.
Regardless, I am sure the rest will be simply delighted to know that the newest album from Abney Park – “Aether Shanties” – has been released and I must say, I find it to be a lovely work indeed.
They continue in the same vein they began with “Lost Horizons”, thematically keeping with such Steampunk ideas as derelict airships (Aether Shanty – the single that I had posted above), clockworks (The Clockyard), DIY machine building (Building Steam). In such terms it is an entertaining album that sets the steampunk mood perfectly.
Sonically it has a number of points where it deviates from Lost Horizons, though those who have listened to their work prior to LH should find this to be of no surprise. Abney Park is a band that seemingly lives to re-invent themselves as much as they do to perform, and in this situation it suits them.
Gone away is their hard, gothy EBM style that made up roughly half of the last album. And while there is, of course, still a lot of heavy guitar vamping and bold piratey stuff, there are a number of other tracks that do an interesting, though not always convincing, play on fusing the antique with the new.
That was “Until The Day You Die”, one of the strongest and most interesting numbers on the album, their use without over-use of rag-time samples gives the song a fun, goofy and yet darkly diabolical nature.
“My Life” does a fun job at mixing a gypsy-klezmer style into the mix, though it didn’t feel entirely natural to mine-self, and I almost felt that I would rather leave the gypsy punk to the gypsies. That is not to say it isn’t a good track, but I am not so sure it fits here with what the band is doing.
I find the same with “Victoria”, though I am divided on this one. I love piano, and the piano work on this track is deep, melancholy and beautiful… but then they must add a drum machine as though they are not confident enough in the piano compositions ability to move on its own. When the good Captain breaks in with a genuinely sad soliloquy and the drum machine falls away you are immediately brought back in, but then as soon as it is gone, the infernal thing returns, much to my frustration.
Perhaps I am reaching. So with that I’ll finish by saying that, regardless of its faults, it is a deliriously beautiful album. It is refreshing to see that they’re growing as musicians, producers and song writers. The album sounds, for the most part, the least electronic of any of their work to date, and this is where the real strengths in it lie.
I do suggest going to their website AbneyPark.com and buying the album straight from them, it is available for digital download or as an actual, physical “compact disc.” All in all, I am willing to say, I would be surprised if you found it to disappoint.
-The Lord Baron