This is a review of "An Excellent Field Geologist" recorded by Glaciers. The review was written by Jessica Thornsby in 2009.
'An Excellent Field Geologist' from Leeds-based Glaciers (aka Nicolas Burrows) opens with Brooklyn,' a track of simple beauty, relying solely on a steadily plucked acoustic guitar, a few atmospheric synths, and some halting, lullaby-like vocals. Nicolas' voice is Glacier's main draw, as he alternates between painfully hesitant, haunting vocals and trembling falsetto notes, which bring a spine-tingling quality to what might otherwise just be some guy plucking away at an acoustic guitar.
After the delicate opening, the addition of some sombre, organ-like synths bring out the underlying sadness to 'Brooklyn's sound, and it becomes surprisingly affecting. After this brief spell of gloominess, a combination of multi-layered vocal harmonies, sublime "whooooo-whooooo" backing vocals and twinkling synths lift 'Brooklyn' into more upbeat territory, and bring it to a bright, hopeful conclusion.
The spider-web-thin vocals, barely-there atmospherics and delicate shifts in mood will be completely lost on the casual listener. 'Brooklyn' requires your full attention at all times, if you're going to get anything out of it.
In contrast to the sparkling 'Brooklyn,' the first half of follow-up track 'Golden Tones' has a dark, crackly-edged sound, laced with jangly synths, eerie "whooooo" backing vocals and a whispered main vocal. While this does partially succeed in unnerving the listener, the main vocals aren't as chilling as Glaciers seem to believe them to be. They're much too faint to make any proper contribution to the atmosphere of this broody, black-hearted piece of alt-pop.
This song's second section of multi-layered, distorted vocals, twangy chords and downbeat synths, is far more effective in terms of creating atmosphere. It practically seeps sadness and, occasionally, successfully hits those chilling notes the rest of 'Golden Tones' is labouring after.
EP-closer 'Lalalala' is the song that packs the most punch, boasting something that actually resembles a conventional chorus. The verse-sections do initially feel slightly empty, as they rely solely on Nicolas' breathy vocals. However, as his vocals grow increasingly urgent, an acoustic guitar is spliced in and the two swiftly build to a climax of a harsh, twangy chord and a cry of "lalalala." It's odd, but it works brilliantly.
However, after the "lalalala" high, we get a few moments of lost-sounding guitar-picking, before Glaciers get back into the groove, and begin building up to the next "lalalala."
'Lalalala' is a definite one-trick pony as, beyond that one great hook, the rest of the song fills like filler. But, it's such a good trick, that it's possible to overlook the fact that it's really all 'Lalalala' has to offer.
It may be easy to write 'An Excellent Field Geologist' off as easy listening, but in actual fact it's too sparse and unmelodic to serve as background music. As Glaciers shift through the subtle moods of 'Brooklyn' and piece together a subdued, sad sound in 'Golden Tones,' all you'll hear are some random synths and a bit of acoustic guitar, if you're not listening carefully.
Asking Glaciers to be louder and more attention-grabbing, and therefore more appealing to the majorities, would be pointless. Nicolas does't produce music that'll ever make a huge impact, but he's very good at what he does. With a little work, 'An Excellent Field Geologist' makes for intriguing listening, and it's not nearly as empty and passable, as a casual listen would have you believe.