Album Review: Carnivalesque - Rubens

Carnivalesque marks the debut for Rubens - a combined project from Mark Flanagan and Gordon MacDermid - that sees the duo construct uplifting ambient electronic landscapes.

Reminiscent of other artists such as Ulrich Schnauss, Carnivalesque feels very much like an experimental electronic album, combining the emotional resonance of a Sigur Ros track for example with the technical approach of Four Tet. On album opener 'Vertical Hold' for example, melodies plucked out on acoustic guitars twist in and out of each other whilst a tight electronic beat pushes through to create an icy yet warm sound.

Second track and second single, 'Breaking Into Smile' nicely encapsulates the feeling of listening to Rubens with synths wash over a mixture of live and synthetic percussion to create a smile inducing record.

Whilst the record as a whole has a consistent theme, and this being a pure electronica album there are no vocals, there is no doubt that there is some emotional variety. Try comparing the opening track to 'Giraffe' and you'll find a far more downbeat Rubens apparent.

The production on display seems almost effortless - textures and layer upon layer combine with such ease that it is all too easy to overlook the substantial effort that must have gone into the compositions on offer. It is also refreshing to note that a variety of live instruments have been used to give the sound more depth.

Carnivalesque is undoubtedly an enjoyable record and the delicate textures and soundscapes create the perfect soundtrack to a cold winter's day. As an album it is at its most enjoyable when it departs slightly from the norm - the sheer head nodding joy of 'Vertical Hold', the considered close to the ten-minute 'Ferris Wheel' or the spacious closer 'After Now Is Next' all provide definite highlights - and as such it will be interesting to hear what the future holds if Rubens develop a broader focus whilst maintaining their apparent attention to detail.

Without doubt Carnivalesque makes a delicate and beautiful introduction to the world of Rubens.