Klaxons – Surfing The Void
A lot has been said about the production process of Klaxons’ second album. To summarise: they struggled for about a year in the studio trying to settle on the right sound and direction to take – a struggle that nearly led to them giving up completely. When they did finally decide on the type of album suitable enough to follow-up the successful, Mercury Award-winning Myths Of The Near Future, their label, Polydor Records, rejected it for not being accessible enough and drafted in renowned American rock producer Ross Robinson. Bringing in a man best known for his work on heavy, and not exactly accessible, rock acts like Machine Head, Slipknot, At The Drive-In and Korn may seem like a surprising move. But on Surfing The Void, it turns out to be a masterstroke.
Opener ‘Echoes’ was wisely selected as the lead single to reassure fans that Klaxons haven’t totally abandoned the pop sensibilities that made their first album such a hit. It serves as the perfect re-introduction, while hinting at a more expansive and ambitious approach to making music. There is an urgency about the frantic guitars, and while the familiar whispered, almost ethereal vocals remain, there is a not a wasted note or missed opportunity to fill a gap with layers of sound.
The Wall of Sound approach is a defining characteristic of Surfing The Void. The title track opens with an explosive but well controlled burst of guitars, and then ebbs and flows along a melodic vocal line. ‘Valley Of The Calm Trees’ maintains the urgency and tension before opening up into a mammoth chorus – showing that even amongst the prog leanings, Klaxons still know the importance of a good hook. ‘Twin Flames’ is further evidence of this – a beautiful, synth-led melody giving way to a driving rhythm and the harmonising of joint vocalists James Righton and Jamie Reynolds, with some of Klaxons most decipherable and universal lyrics yet: “Twin flames in our hearts / As we turn towards our very start / Twin flames in our minds / When we move emotions multiply”.
Most of the lyrics on Surfing The Void, though, are reassuringly full of Klaxons’ trademark incomprehensible psycho-babble. Just a brief glance at the track-listing shows they are not abandoning their quest to out-Muse Muse in the proggy lyrical space race – ‘The Same Space’, ‘Valley Of The Calm Trees’, ‘Venusia’, ‘Extra Astronomical’, and ‘Cypherspeed’ all demonstrate their space-prog commitments will not be wavering any time soon.
Far from being the disjointed, indulgent mess some may have feared, Surfing The Void is actually an assured and confident progression for Klaxons and should see them established as one of the most exciting and creative bands around. By reining in the creativity and compromising for the sake of wider appeal, Klaxons have created a highly accessible album that still sounds interesting and unique.
Buy Surfing the Void