India Electric Co. : The Gap

Five years after their first album, The Girl I Left Behind Me, Cole Stacey and Joseph O'Keefe have delivered their second, The Gap. They punctuated the long interlude between with three EPs - bringing traditional instruments and influences into flawless alignment with their collective imagination - and worldwide tours.

The Gap is a precise but affecting work. Each sound is placed in the mix with the reverence with which a sculpture is positioned in a gallery.

Cole Stacey sings, Joseph O'Keefe switches between violin, piano, accordion, bass, guitar and bodhran as the mood dictates; synthesisers and strings, arranged with dexterity and sympathy, add depth.

The songwriting is strong; the lyrics draw wonder from diverse literary and historical inspiration. The vocals and instruments speak together with great clarity.

Despite a different start point, the duo are on a creative trajectory parallel to that Mark Hollis took from pop to the transcendent minimalism of his only solo LP, learning to use space and silence to frame rich emotional textures as they go.

The Gap is a spellbinding set of songs, but with clear highlights.

Statues opens the album - a tense, plucked violin immediately expressing the neurosis of constant movement in a song about the paradoxes of touring, coloured with characteristic spare, emotive virtuosity - a distant echo of Andrew Belew's early work with King Crimson - as Stacey sings,

Looks like chasing
Feels like on the verge of something
Seems like statues
Don’t have to be there to be there

The most straight forward expression of the duo’s mastery is Parachutes, a mesmeric essay of art-pop, improbably lifted and detailed at its heart by The Green Gowned Lass. The shuffling Bembé rhythm and elegant melodic drift of Great Circles, lyrically inspired by Robert Frost, runs it close - as does Follow the Drum, a song that uses words collected by Alfred Williams in Gloucestershire to form the verses, which then alternate with bucolic instrumental passages.

The music of The Gap ranges dream-like, without restraint, as it presents an intensely modern folk vision, the songs seamlessly shaped by influences from Eastern Europe to Latin America, from Sub-Saharan rhythms to Irish traditional melodies.

India Electric Co. have recorded an album of beautiful, poetic songs - imaginative, experimental and breathtaking in their emotional reach. The Gap is a heartfelt work of art.