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Human Nature

Irish band’s triumphant second album.

Rating: 8 / 10

Jackie Hayden, 15 Apr 2009

Completed and then redone entirely from scratch, this is Alphastates’ follow-up to their ground-breaking debut, and it confirms them as a major creative force, an inventive respite from blog-standard guitar-driven formulaic rock. Singer Catherine Dowling’s presence throughout is a revelation, evoking memories of Shirley Manson and Beth Gibbons, but with a flexibility that challenges both.

From the bleeps and rumbles of the gripping opening title-track you can’t avoid comparisons with Garbage, and the ghosts of Kraftwerk and Portishead are never too far away either. But whereas with bands of that ilk the technology often dominates the compositional content, this rarely happens with Alphastates. ‘Taste’ promises the poppy innocence of the early synth era, until Dowling drips her achingly honeyed tones all over it. The irresistible ‘Champagne Glass’ marries soundscapey electronica with a thumping beat and another fetching vocal. The slinkily erotic ‘Swimming’ bathes us in swathes of wondrous sounds, Dowling’s voice surfing the instrumental tracking like a silken mermaid, and the exuberant ‘Astronaut’ chimes and pumps with melodic energy. The band reveal a more acoustic side on the forlorn ‘Anywhere’, while ‘Comfort In Silence’ reaches out a little further into uncharted waters, before Dowling’s frothy voice takes the song home.

Karl Odlum’s production ensures that Gerry Horan and Dowling’s provocative and literate songs are given space to breathe. Human Nature comes from a band finding their own groove in the delicate balance between nature and technology, and giving us a rock album with songs you can dance to.

Key Track: 'Swimming'

Rating: 8 / 10
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