Because their sophomore LP, Three Fact Fader, received such heavy acclaim, Engineers had a lot of expectations for their follow-up, In Praise of More. Fortunately, they were up to the task, as their third album is another blissful entry into the group’s catalog.
In the year since their last album, the UK shoegazers (who also classify themselves appropriately as electronica, dreampop, and psychedelic) have had a significant line-up change. Dan McBean and Andrew Sweeny were replaced by Matthew Linley, Daniel Land and – perhaps most influentially – keyboardist Ulrich Schnauss. An already established German electronica visionary, Schnauss helps paint distinctive textures over the record. Overall, In Praise of More is a more tranquil and synthesizer-focused album than their last, which allows it to feel both familiar and fresh.
In Praise of More begins like a hip lullaby with “What It’s Worth.” Vocally, there is the quirky coolness, and musically, it’s like floating through a trippy dream. Like the rest of the album, it’s a fairly mellow affair, kind of like the calmer tracks of Radiohead. The instruments play softly and simply, but hey, that’s what Engineers are all about, and they craft a very unique mood.
“Subtober” has a thumping bass, making it almost like a trance piece (but definitely more intelligent). There are odd industrial sounds too, which justifies their claim that they’re more than musicians; they’re truly engineers in the studio. Every track on here carries roughly the same aesthetic, but each offers significant enough variation to make it consistently exciting.
One of the most beautiful tracks is “Las Vegas.” With lush production and peaceful acoustic guitar, it’s a very optimistic vibe. On the other hand, the aggression of “To An Evergreen” is refreshing. With perfect dynamics and walls of sound, “Twenty Paces” is the type of track you want to ensconce yourself in. The album closes with “Nach Hause,” which is really just echoing piano chords over captured sound and wind, but its simplicity is what makes it moving.
Engineers are not for everyone, though. This album, like their last, could be seen as a bit too passive; there is definitely energy and intensity, but not in the same way some might expect. This is not a rock album, and so it’s not dependent on aggressive hooks or catchy melodies. Instead, the group creates moods to envelope listeners with wistful vocals and complementary music.
Fans of Engineers will definitely enjoy In Praise of More - which is to say that it’s not so radically different as to polarize anyone. It’s more thought provoking and reserved than it is designed for massive airplay, but those who can appreciate what they’re doing will enjoy the album. I certainly did.