Brothertiger – Vision Tunnels

Brothertiger - Vision Tunnels

I know I had a bit of a gripe on these pages a week or two back regarding electronica and its distressingly retrograde condition nowadays, but it all too often seems to this listener that some musicians and, importantly, their equipment, are jammed into a very narrow pigeonhole labelled ‘the 80s’ ie: a moment when electronic music enjoyed an initiative and everyone had big hair and actual dancing was still allowed. I may sit at my assortment of typewriters tapping either of my index fingers impatiently while awaiting the arrival of an entirely new, original and epochally groundbreaking approach to the synthesiser (and Keytars are back in a big way, I notice) but I also realise that there’s way more than nostalgia attached to the disco nouveau sounds emanating from the livelier end of the club scene nowadays. Everyone, including the very last Studio 54 veterans stumbling around the style bar circuit, wants a mildly hedonistic, relatively undemanding and less than overwhelmingly fluorescent good time, really everyone does and don’t deny it.

So John Jago, the sole impresario at work behind Brothertiger, sets the controls for subtle ambience and displays more than sufficient command of his banks of keyboards and sequencers to enable him to produce the opener on mini album Vision Tunnels the softly funked “Lovers”, a song constructed with a seemingly microscopic attention to detail and which would slide unnoticed onto a mid 80s soul compilation, perhaps even a compilation of Hall And Oates obscurities. You may not respond automatically to the form, but it’s impossible to fail to appreciate the skill that’s gone into creating a pre-house soft funk ballad that’s both slow enough to chill to and fast enough to dance along with, should circumstances allow. Second track “Summer House” is a bass-heavy drift through some hazy rhythms that had me recalling some early 90s Italian or Balearic House, except slowed down to a point where the actual tune is the most important factor in the track rather than frenetic percussion or falsetto vocal sampling. “You’re Afraid” has a Chicagoan feel to it, and while the robotic intro recalls “Planet Rock” and any number of hard disco moments that found themselves turntabled into rap backdrops, the double tracked and phased vocal removes any harshness from the machine drumscore, and John Jago has one of the more pleasant voices I’ve heard on anything recently. One which makes the languidly defined title track less of a dirge and more of an elegiac drift through a recognisable nod of the circuits to “Maid Of Orleans” style OMD. Final track “Theme” returns to the disco theme, but with Jago’s vocal humansising the arpeggios and phased bass notes, giving even perhaps the least complex song of the five on Vision Tunnels precisely the depth and gloss that Brothertiger quite assuredly bring to the material.

Only five songs on this release though, but there’s every indication that this is only the beginning of Jago’s songwriting and performance. I and others may take a certain amount of issue with the inescapable idea that ‘back is the new forward’ but there’s ironically retro and then there’s inspired musicianship, and it’s the Brothertigers of the self-release sites that will produce the innovative and memorable songs and sounds of the next decade. I can’t help wondering what John Jago would come up with if all he had was an acoustic six string, but I don’t doubt it’d make for every bit as rewarding a listen as Vision Tunnel does.