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Album Review: CYMBALS – The Age of Fracture

London quartet CYMBALS’ last full-length, Sideways, Sometimes, may have felt almost rustic with its simplistic hooks and well-rehearsed ‘ahhs’ (not to mention lines about sharing candy bars), but it’s that record’s most pop elements that have spiralled out onto The Age of Fracture. Named after the monograph by academic, Daniel T. Rodgers, there’s a clear intellectual basis that encompasses much of the proceedings here. The book muses upon the fragmentation of ideas and how collective meanings have become uncertain. Drawing on this inspiration, there are times when instrumental sections float, building on their stature—and you don’t have a clue what direction they’re going to dart in.

‘Winter ’98’ opens the album with nostalgic synths sparking gracefully over the flourishing beat as frontman Jack Cleverly adopts a semi-spoken word demeanour, narrating in his native French and sounding alluring as the track descends into a big house-style beat.

Controlled glockenspiel-like keys introduce ‘The Natural World,’ ‘You Are,’ and ‘The Empty Space,’ aligning more with the fun, chirpy nature of their earlier material. Cleverly’s well-executed high tones add a rush of hyperactive energy, heightened by the heavier background tones. Bridging the gap between serious fun and just plain serious is ‘The 5%,’ which harks back to the literary influence through its lyrics: “Time can be erased, you’re stupid if you try to stay in place.” The title track also follows suit with repeated refrains of “Now it’s time to get out,” over quieter, trickling electronics and wooden taps, which fade out—in a similar way to Peter Bjorn and John’s ‘Young Folks.’

From here on, the album proceeds to change its mood dramatically. The group take a turn for the brooding on the nine-minute, ‘Like An Animal.’ It’s certainly one of the stronger tracks, as it vibrates along, almost certainly bringing the dance floor with it. It’s on the record’s final track, ‘The End,’ that we’re treated to one final chance to shimmy on down to the cheery ‘80s disco-inspired synths; one last reminder of what it is that the four-piece do so well.

In a pre-album interview, Cleverly summarised The Age of Fracture as being, “less about us. It’s more outward looking, more aware of the world at large.” It’s certainly something that can be heard here. From its gossamer, cultured beginnings through to its far darker closing suite, The Age of Fracture is rooted in life’s little diversities. And for that, it’s very interesting indeed.

- Hayley Fox

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