This is the sophomore effort from Manchester’s PJ Philipson, both appearing on the LCR imprint, his last, which sold out, four years back. The guitarist has re-tuned his instrument here, finding inspiration in everything from linotypes to The Poetics of Space (Gaston Bachelard) to other formidable, senior composers. He most certainly wields his instrument in foreign ways, often unrecognizable as a piece of wood with strings, and Linotopia is proof positive that transformations so profound come with a sensitive grace and maximum impact.
Kicking off with the distorted breaks of Sodium Light Years you know you are in for an interesting listen that modernizes composition with an imperfect set of elements. These cracked in-betweens flow throughout the album’s ten short tracks, mostly all four minutes in running time, or the length of a typical pop tune. He’s playing on the typical album format with atypical short stories. There’s a certain sense that pixie dust is being floated here and there. Bowling into Deconstruction is a bold lil’ track with intriguing effects and dark pedals that boom, it’s a bit like that fallout after a hard rock interlude where you can finally hear the tail end of the melody through the din. Philipson has incorporated a space fantasy in the crevices so adventurers everywhere can get lost in the space he creates, and this is loaded with figments of atmosphere. You witness his interest in the work of Steve Reich on Renold Concertina with its constant repeating strings, it’s a weird cross between old school new age, with a bit of colorful psychedelics thrown in for good measure. It may not be the strongest track here, but it shows how wide his creative breadth is.
The sample track (above) is Rhythmanalysis, and again you have a repetitious, bobbling rhythm, and here there are echoes of the ‘Krautrock’ era. The piece is glazed over, with a sensitive beat. This is an aural lava lamp with a pulse. The clever record styles voice samples into plucky strumming on Ghost Loyalty, with an electro-bluegrass flair. Elsewhere illuminated shoegaze is introduced that begins to shape an overall Summer-y mix on Linotype. The places on Linotopia that are most successful over these ten pieces is where the instrument is completely obliterated, as is on Machinery. With quick-stroke edits and a fairly decent pacing, the track becomes a complex series of choppy tunnels through which we travel expeditiously. The remainder of the record, Sunlight on Open Stairs and the closer House and Universe, are both sleepy, faded harmonies with a certain home-on-the-range twang. The latter is like throwing the concept of “what we have, we hold” to the fire, in fact there are greater possibilities way beyond our comprehension. The soothing piece/s have an element of never looking back, yet a hidden fear of the unknown still lurks, but in that, it’s all worth the risk, the adventure.