How refreshing to forgo the usual sprawling wait times and get two Róisín Murphy releases within one year! And while these songs where helmed from the same pool of starting material that birthed last year’s beautiful Hairless Toys, Take Her Up To Monto doesn’t quite sound like a progression, nor retread either. Mixing up the old and the new, Murphy has once again created a very singularHow refreshing to forgo the usual sprawling wait times and get two Róisín Murphy releases within one year! And while these songs where helmed from the same pool of starting material that birthed last year’s beautiful Hairless Toys, Take Her Up To Monto doesn’t quite sound like a progression, nor retread either. Mixing up the old and the new, Murphy has once again created a very singular world with this record.
One of the defining characteristics of Hairless Toys’ elongated and sometimes linear progressions were the unexpected turns the songs would take coming round the bridge. Monto builds on these turns, with songs often segueing between three or four different segments in the span of one song. “Mastermind”, our first taste of the record, kicks things off with percolating synths and dissonant harmonies narrating the prologue, picking up for summery introspection before descending into bubbling 80s synth drums and sprawling funk guitars and fading out by way of pitched down and harmonized vocal humming.
“Thoughts Wasted” (a personal favourite) splits a stuttering intro a frantic and skittish string jaunt with sliding xylophones, and hazy introspection with each section being spliced together by fuzzy pianos.
This is done somewhat easily as song structure is much more loose here than it has ever been with Murphy. This is epitomized on the somewhat shapeless “Nervous Sleep”, a sprawling 7-minute abstract stream of consciousness where underwater synths scatter over a subtlety pulsing (almost ticking) beat; voices moving in and out of frame deliriously illustrating its title’s concept.
This phase shifting of composition, and loose structure can make the first few listens of these songs somewhat hard to get into. Whether the compositions at the present moment very sparse or dense, the unpredictability of it all can leave you struggling to grab a hold of anything on a first listen. Melody takes a bit of a backseat on this effort, in preference of rhythmic and percussive swells. This also plays into the lack of accessibility, in that it becomes harder to grasp on a song’s motif when chords land so dizzyingly all over the place. I find it somewhat surprising that many reviews have stated THUTM is more accessible than its “alienating” predecessor, as Hairless Toys was content to stick to more solid ideas while stretching them out, whereas Monto can be a baffling enigma hard to delve into, requiring repeated entries before the ideas and sounds really take any discernible shape.
The record displays welcome eclecticism from the pop maven, from the dark electro cabaret of “Pretty Gardens” ripe with humourous innuendo, to the Bossa Nova bounce of the sweetly blissful “Lip Service”. “Romantic Comedy” pins the humour of “Pretty Gardens” to dizzying chord arrangements and glittery synth lines.
And for someone who’s favourite track from Hairless Toys was the title track, this record offers up quite a few dazzlingly atmospheric and ethereal takes by way of “Whatever” a sparkly piano whisper of a ballad, and the hazy introspection of “Sitting and Counting”.
The only disappointment for me here is lead single “Ten Miles Up” which glides on a few simple ideas introduced at the start to only reach any significant change ¾ of the way in when the beat picks up for a danceable bridge, but unfortunately leaves before one can even reap the sonic benefits of this change. It sounds more like an intro song than anything, but “Mastermind” clearly does a much better job. At 5:34 minutes it overstays its welcome and underperforms during its stay.
A strange choice for a single, let alone a lead, but none of the songs here really harness any single potential anyways. Which is no real problem, Murphy’s dedication to her craft and her world create a more dynamic listening experience than a collection of potential hits.
What we’re left with is another sonic world, ripe with layers upon layers, to really dive in and deconstruct, trying to decipher the maddening theatrics of an artist so incredibly fascinating as Róisín Murphy.… Expand