To this day, bands successfully merging post-rock with pop-music remain a rare occurence. Even though the genre has had its crossovers into mainstream media (most notably in commercials and movie soundtracks), fact remains that the expanded sonic palette of tremolo picking and winding build-ups simply does not sit easily with the ears of the average joe. Being labelled a “synth-pop/post-rock” outfit will therefore inspire some cynicism, but with their third studio album Under A Common Sky, the London-based Electric Litany have more than delivered on the promise of a post-rock/pop-crossover.
Electric Litany have a track record when it comes to their studio recordings. Having been discovered by British multi-instrumentalist and producer Alan Parsons, the band not only worked together with him on their second album Enduring Days You Will Overcome (2014), but also on the subsequent Love EP (2016), with Parsons admitting to the BBC that Electric Litany “have the potential to be the next Radiohead.” Raised expectations aside—it being up to the listener whether they deliver upon them—working together with one of Britain’s music industry legends has certainly had its effect on the band’s musical output, because despite half of the band members being of Greek origin, the band sounds distinctively British.
Throughout history, artists in underground genres like metal, prog and punk have had the tendency to move towards more mainstream sounds—the so-called “softening” of the sound—and sometimes even crossing over to enjoy mainstream succes. Under A Common Sky could be described as a chronicle of British underground genres spilling over into the mainstream. From post-punk to prog and from new wave to post-rock, Under A Common Sky hearkens back to the greatest moments in British music history with a myriad of sounds and textures, creating a perfect blend of modern and retro sounds. In combination with the notable accent of singer Alexandros Miaris, this record carries a Britishness that further distinguishes Electric Litany from its contemporaries.
Nevertheless, Under A Common Sky was actually written by the band while staying at a beach house in Corfu, Greece, where they found inspiration in the island’s “nocturnal nature” but also in the European migrant crisis—a subject that still feels painfully relevant with the recent discovery of 39 dead Vietnamese refugees in a cooler truck. Even though the aforementioned island has remained largely outside of the effects of the refugee crisis, the influence of the increased migrant influx is pervasive on other islands in the area. Similarly Under A Common Sky concerns itself with the ordeals of refugees in a way that is all but inescapable.
“Refugee (Under A Common Sky)” and “Embark” paint the challenges faced by those who left their home country by the sea, in vivid poetry. Both “Azure” and “Sealight” succeed in painting a beautifully subtle picture of the ocean. The waltzing rhythm of the former aptly evokes the waves of the sea, setting them to a melancholic overture with sampled choirs. Even songs like “Bedroom” which seemingly deals with a troubled romantic relationship, begets a discomforting dimension with its chorus begging “Do you want me for a while?”
This thematic consistency is one of the strengths of this album, but also one of its potential downfalls. Under A Common Sky is so full of its theme that it could be perceived as nagging instead of inspiring. Songs like “Refugee” and “The World is Changing While You Sleep” largely appeal to the individual conscience resulting in a feeling of latent guilt rather than compassion or activation.
In conclusion, Electric Litany manage to present a versatile and well-produced record, which has the tendency to miss its higher purpose, namely to emotionally involve the listener in its subject matter. However, Under A Common Sky just as easily makes the listener forget about all that with the impeccably produced “SeaLight”, the nostalgic synth sounds of “The Seventh Goodbye” and the heavy post-punk grooves of “CFU”. This album will appeal to just about anyone with its successful and accessible amalgamation of musical influences, while its outstanding composition and production values make it a pop record beyond sophistication.
This album is… **interesting.
Under A Common Sky was released on November 22 through Apollon Records and is available in vinyl and CD formats via the Apollon Records webshop.