What’s amazing about Snowglobe Citizen is the sheer number of ideas Chris M manages to pack into any one track. With an average running time of over five minutes, this is needed but also afforded by the source material. That focus on melody means that Carbinax can take the elements of one track and use them in multiple configurations along the way that seldom sound repetitive.
Chris M has been been releasing and self-releasing music since 1999, but who might be better known to most as the man behind 2ndMOUSE thanks to his key contributions to those vast and legendary charity compilations from Touched that help raise money for the MacMillan Cancer Research Trust and his own solo album The Secret Chords on said label.
Chris has now set aside the 2ndMOUSE moniker, however, and is reborn as Carbinax. He also appears to have gone quite, quite mad, as his self-released debut under the new name contains a whopping 34 tracks (including two remixes by Funckarma and one by Brian Dougans of The Future Sound of London) clocking in at an intimidating runtime of 3 hours 22 minutes! How does one even sit down and listen to this behemoth? As it turns out, when it’s as catchy and beautifully assembled as this, really quite easily.
Chris has pointed out in interviews that you can hook a lot more people in with a melody you want to hear again and again than by piling as many production techniques, transformations and lofty concepts into the music as humanly possible. It pays off. These thirty four tracks are quite ridiculously easy both to listen to in general and to get through in a single sitting. You probably won’t find yourself wanting to stop, in fact.
Strange, then, that Snowglobe Citizen gets off to a slightly limp start. There’s nothing particularly wrong with “Paper, Scissors, Semtex,” but compare the generic melodies and mid-tempo pace with the track that immediately follows: the motorik rhythms, chilly vocal aaahs and propulsive bass lead into a catchy, open-ended chorus that point to “Metamorph” being ideal single-release material.
No matter. What’s amazing about Snowglobe Citizen is the sheer number of ideas the artist manages to pack into any one track. With an average running time of over five minutes, this is needed but also afforded by the source material. That focus on melody means that Carbinax can take the elements of one track and use them in multiple configurations along the way that seldom sound repetitive.
There’s so much on offer along the Snowglobe Citizen super-highway that it’s impractical in the extreme to comprehensively describe what’s on offer here. It’s a cinch, however, to point up instant favorites and slowly percolating growers.
Take “1000 Yard Stare” as a prime example. A film-track synth string melody opens the piece, before cheerful, tumbling, end-of-the-pier organ arpeggios roll them over. They’re joined by a construction-line percussion and mallet-smashed snares. Then a stroke of genius: a lacerating repeated sting lashes out of the speakers, and it’s this one little detail alone elevates the track a thousand-fold. Mu-ziq-style playtime melodic flourishes arrive, the track breaks down several times and then finally the whole kit-and-kaboodle adrenaline rush is meshed together with swathes of brilliantly low-in-the-mix melancholy strings. The mix of melody, emotion, production and excitement are just perfection.
There’s less reliance on cut-up and looped vocals on Snowglobe Citizen than in his earlier 2ndMOUSE work, but the tracks that do feature them are some of the finest examples Chris has yet created. “Mountain To Climb,” for example, is one of the album’s emotional highs, the cut-up vocals sparingly used above an old-school, Plaid-like hook played out as a jangly synth melody. But when the strings kick-in it’s devastatingly affecting.
There’s many a track fueled by the tension created between sharply contrasting elements, in fact, the twinkling keys of “You Will Never Be Alone” versus grungy guitar samples, stomping beats and borderline emo-vocal snippets,, “Sorry, I Was Miles Away” splices classical strings, piano and choral vocal samples with a pitch-shifting chant, and the absolute belter “Done and Dusted” contrasts arid pads and memorable vocal cut-ups with more warbly organ tones and constantly descending keys in the chorus.
Snowglobe Citizen takes in latter-day Orbital material on the “wonky,” addictive and gorgeously textured “Black Notes,” playful, Rest Proof Clockwork Plaid on the brightly colored bubbles of the infectious “Neemly,” and hyperactive Toytronica on the shattered glass shards of “7th Plane,” the baffling, interwoven lattice of elements that form the mesmerizing matrix that is “Parameters” and the confoundingly shifty “Eyes” that has major ants in the pants, refusing to settle on any one melodic phrase.
Then there’s the wealth of BoC-inspired tracks full of familiar smeary documentary samples and hazy sun-damage heard on tracks like “Laniakean,” “Perpetual Snow (Bluefinger Mix),” “Naughty Step,” “Idiome,” “6174” and the particularly fine “Phyx Gilead” that provide welcome, down-tempo interludes and between Carbinax’s more intense material.
Put simply, there’s something for everyone tucked away in the many folds of the expansive Snowglobe Citizen. And while at times can feel like listening to three or four vastly different albums folded into one another, it expertly averts identity crisis by injecting every moment with that unmistakeable 2ndMOUSE/Carbinax serum that holds everything together. For three and half hours. Take the time and give Snowglobe Citizen a good, strong shake. You won’t regret it.
Snowglobe Citizen is available here.