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Chris Merrick Hughes - Eirenic Life album review

Respected baroque pop architect Chris Merrick Hughes strips back to vault forward

Hughes’ reputation precedes him. Not only did he once pound drums in Adam’s Ants, he also produced the McLarenenvisaged Burundi-beat of their Kings Of The Wild Frontier album and most of the best of Tears For Fears’ multi-platinum catalogue. So when it comes to sonics, Hughes knows his business.

Kings…’ chart-topping constituent parts, Sowing The Seeds Of Love and Everybody Wants To Rule The World are big, blousy records; brash, massive, laden with lush ornature. Eirenic Life (a rare solo work, his first in 23 years) represents a polar opposite facet of Hughes’ complex musical persona – that of modern classicist.

Inspired, as always, by Steve Reich, Eirenic Life – six pastoral, outwardly tranquil piano pieces – might invite comparison with Eno, purely for its calming exterior, but rather than simply providing an agreeable aural wallpaper of somnolent ambience, closer attention reveals mood-manipulating depths more readily associated with Max Richter or Erik Satie. Hesitating glissandos tumble across brooding dronescapes, and while there’s a contemplative serenity to be found here, there’s also an unavoidable feeling of imminent dread to keep you unsettled and engaged. How very 21st century.