Klaxons - Surfing the Void

Antonio Rowe 22/08/2010

Rating: 4/5

It's been 3 years. A long time, no? In that three years there's been a whirlwind of rumours from speculated incongruous artistic developments (dub step, dance and - somewhat mindbendingly - folk) to the infamously rejected first attempt (too experimental, Polydor said) and then finally to the stories about unproductive work relationships (James Ford anyone?). If you're still unsure as to who I'm talking about, you either still think it's 2007 and believe nu rave still has a chance at becoming a credible genre or (more likely) you simply don't read the NME.

Yes, it's Klaxons, and it's fair to say there hasn't been a band nor artist whose album's gestation period has been so well-documented as the media hoo-har that's surrounded the development and impending birth of their sophomore effort Surfing The Void.
Weird birth terminology aside, the arrival of Klaxons back in the latter years of the Noughties saw them widely anointed as the Kings of Nu Rave quickly followed by a passionate media frenzy, all of which culminated in their much-hyped debut Myths Of The Near Future - an album which succeeded in beating the likes of Amy Winehouse and Bat For Lashes to win the once coveted Mercury Prize despite fairly mixed reviews. And new LP Surfing The Void doesn't look set to change that, with this record definitely not compromising to win over the group's naysayers - essentially, it's a plethora of gigantic pop songs packed with massive hooks and sci-fi yodelling. Take 'Echoes' for example, a great choice for an opener and a single that many will now be familiar with. It's also an accurate introduction to Klaxons' new sound; hushed, delicate but powerful harmonies, cascading intergalactic riffs and a slight hint of accidental distortion to roughen things up. To summarise, it's epic, extremely pompous, slightly questionable but, overall, great.
As the album progresses, each track seems like a possible selection to soundtrack some future apocalypse or, more ironically, some futuristic rave. See 'Venusha' - yet another blistering reminder that nu rave is now nothing but a distant memory, a track of gigantic dimensions packed with blaring synthesizers, glam metal guitars and poppy falsettos. It's the type of enormity that we've only recently witnessed with Muse's Resistance, although Klaxons make it way more enjoyable. Thankfully, there's a general absence of calculated rock theatrics, meaning any melodrama present seems genuine and not a contrived attempt to sell out arenas, which is more than can be said for those Devonshire boys.
This may seem all the more surprising with production credits going to heavy rock/metal overlord Ross Robinson who prior to Surfing The Void has being responsible for the creative works of Korn, Slipknot and various other outfits who specialise in the music of death n' gloom. However, here it's clear Robinson has being the guardian rather than a major influence of Klaxons' orbital sonic journey, with there only being slight nuances of his past productions, these being present in 'Extra Astronomical' where a chaotic arrangement is in play and album closer 'Cypherspeed' with it's opening tyrant-like guitar riffs.
Whilst overall it's a cohesive record, Surfing The Void appears to be divided into two sections. The first is packed with the aforementioned plethora of pop songs with planetary proportions and the latter brings forth an array of tunes that commend sci-fi experimentation. It's this sub-section where previous album teaser 'Flashover' can be found. Without a doubt, it's still the most daring piece of music Klaxons have ever created, although amidst the other examples of otherworldly eccentricity, it seems perfectly acceptable and may even endear some once-doubters to the band.
Whether it does or not, one thing's for certain - Surfing The Void will most certainly not be a winner of all hearts. Jamie Reynolds stated in a recent interview that the LP is about avoiding the 'void', this being the growing needs of a modern consumer:
''There's a huge void there, saying 'you can have whatever you want, it's all there for you', but then that transfers into you - it's all in me but I don't know how to get it.''
Whether after reading the above statement you feel that it's a pretentious bid for relevance or you think it's a clever satire on modern culture, either way it's a clear telltale sign as to how you'll feel about both the creators and the record. Ostentatious London art scene wankers or pioneers of future pop music? You decide.