Napoleon IIIrd get lost in slow motion on The Great Lake

The Great LakeIt’s been around for years, but slow-motion video footage is a right laugh isn’t it? There’s nothing better than spending hours filming your dog wagging its tail on Snapchat, and then shoving that snail filter thing on it to make everything go dead slow. It’s the sort of footage that gets people talking. In fact, it would be shocking if a slow-motion film didn’t win an Oscar within the next five years.

Leeds’ Napoleon IIIrd have jumped on the slow-mo bandwagon on The Great Lake, their first record in over 6 years. In this time band leader James Mabbett has seemingly been plugging away at his craft, creating the crawling soundscapes and, from the sound of it, watching more than his fair share of Snapchat videos.

Opener “When We Sleep” introduces itself immediately as a challenging mix of Elbow, Eno, and Sigur Ros. As you’d expect with that concoction, it sounds huge, what with all the strings and whatnot. Somehow though, almost impressively due to its 9-minute length, it manages to go absolutely nowhere, slowly. The track is big for the sake of it, like a super-sized Coca-Cola or Michael Bay explosion sequence. It’s clear to see what the group is aiming for, they’re just missing the mark somehow.

“The Scrap” and “Our Life in Dots” follow the blueprint set out early on. It’s all snail-paced guitars and emotion for emotion's sake. Both tracks force the listener to believe that one more listen will reveal the genius hiding within. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Somewhat bizarrely, the tracks give off the impression that they’re “growers” and that after a few listens something will click. This never happens. In fact, if anything, repeat listens reveal a grating nature that is presumably unintentional.

Somewhat paradoxically, the real disappointment with the album comes not with the bad moments, but the few times Napoleon IIIrd sound bleedin’ great. The start of “And The You In Between The Space” is melancholic to the max, like Edwyn Collins crying into the vast well of an alternate universe, or something… Unfortunately, these moments don’t last long, the track soon reverts to its nu-prog ways with some pretty painful atmospherics and yet another build up to nothing.

The Great Lake shows that this whole slow-motion palaver might be harder than it looks. Perhaps it should be left to the experts.

Release: 19th May 2017, Hatch Records


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