Label: EPMScore: 8.5/10
The Third Man is London-based producer Toby Leeming, who’s previously released twelves on labels such as ART, Ai and Tabernacle. Returning from recording Duologue’s Song And Dance album with Tim Digby Bell, this is his debut solo album; pretty remarkable as it’s quality and confidence sound like it’s at least his fourth venture into the long-playing world.
Having said that, he took his time sculpting the perfect journey-type experience; making every sound count. The screes and string sounds which rise and spark off ‘Intro [Sleep It Off]’ are pure 90s Detroit, but the deep, clanging stabs and sepulchral space melodies are all his own. By four minutes in, it’s a delirious swirl of the afore-mentioned, resonating melodies and chomping acid bubbling underneath like a flatulent hippo. When the morphing string motifs and acid of recent single ‘Double Dawn’ are joined by the mutant ghost of an early 90s rave riff, Leeming’s ethos becomes deliciously evident; he’s taken all these great bits from the techno, house, acid, Italo and old school whoopee, then twisted them like aural plasticine giant’s testicles in whatever visions are sprouting in his noggin at the time, before obviously spending long hours polishing and honing. His enthusiasm, energy and sense of mischief are tangible, tempered with a feel for the classic expression of emotion through melody which has distinguished much of the great electronic music [as in the beatless static-drizzled theme of ‘Rise & Fall‘].
The main recurring element is the Motor City influence, peppering such tracks as the booting scuttle of ‘Betrayal Of Another’ with those suction synth-tones he has down to a fine art, recalling Basic Channel at the same time as the percolating percussion is pure Mayday time suspension. In this respect, his homaging is comparable to the way the mighty Slam used their love of Detroit techno to create masterpieces in their own vision. In fact, the snarling bottom layer is somewhat reminiscent of ‘Positive Education’. ‘The Tracker’ and ‘Beneath The Mine Chamber’ continue the pulsing night ride aura with further mixtures of depth charge boom and astral keyboard flights flickering in the upper reaches. Dense, mournful strings bathe the twisted electro beats and masturbating robo-voles of ‘A Hero Scene’, the wired beat-box tickle continued on ’Battle For The Tabernacle’ before it gallops into a blast furnace of rogue pulses and synth warfare.
Lightening the assault is the only way to follow that toupee-raiser, which doubles the impact of next single ‘Pipes At Helios Canyon’ gliding in like ‘The Chase’-era Giorgio Moroder, before ‘Lantern’ and ‘Free Man’ take the album out with a bit more air around the nether-regions. The set’s already climaxed several times over the previous 50 minutes, making these two deep, melodic closers sumptuous post-coital waterbed stretches.
The eternal quest to create a rewarding instrumental electronic album has resulted in many tall claims but almost as many letdowns. It’s a tricky one to pull off, but The Third Man can count himself as one of the few to conjure that rare beast as a work of fine art.
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