The Android Angel, also known as talented multi-instrumentalist Paul Coltofeanu, draws on a summer of volunteering and travelling throughout Europe on his new LP ‘Lie Back and Think of England’. Taking in incredible experiences from time spent on a farm in the Romanian mountains, on a Water Buffalo reserve in the Ukraine and on the banks of one of Budapest’s most famous lakes, as well as the historical vibrancy of Berlin’s squares and parks, all this combines to create a wide-ranging musical journey that has to be heard to be believed.
Recorded during breaks from his other musical project, the panda-loving Free Swim, the record opens with the 23-second ‘Homes’, an intriguing noise piece that hints at the all-encompassing sound that is to follow. With personal subject matter including lost youth, verrucas and disco beats, it’s a little surprising that ‘Solutions’ has such a folky edge, but when the glockenspiel joins in as the tempo rises, it works as a fitting introduction to the idiosyntric world of The Android Angel. Amongst talk of some of the unforgettable characters he’s met on his travels, Paul asks the listener ‘What’s your solution?’
With subtle female vocals mixing in with Paul’s Gruff Rhys-style drawl, ‘Lie Back and Think of England’ is a gentile but somewhat dark lullaby that seems to be a tale of lost love with lyrics asking ‘How do we sleep?’ before the song evolves and eases into an ocean of refined electronica. The surreal pop atmospherics continue on ‘Distant Star’, a track that opens with distinctly upbeat electric guitar riffs and candid lyrics. A full band sound that is a little unexpected but no less welcome, it comes across as sounding like what would happen if Richard Hawley decided to collaborate with Stephen Malkmus, after a particularly hedonistic night out. It even includes a full-on meltdown as its climax.
The acoustic strums of ‘Foreign Son’ find the album veering directly into singer-songwriter territory, very much in the vein of Willy Mason’s heart-on-the-sleeve anthemics, and clocking in at only 2.38 means the song leaves you wanting so much more. There’s a real emotional depth as Paul again brings up personal experiences and some of the inspirational people he has met on his travels once again. That it’s followed by the distorted and poignant Her Shoulders, a song that captures the spirit of The Antlers, just adds to the warmth you will feel for the album.
Things are somewhat lighter with ‘Chicago John’, the closest the album gets to Free Swim’s more jubilant moments. The 60s-influenced song has some striking keyboards and fun vocals that not only reference Desperate Dan but also reveal how ‘Chicago John has got it going on’. You’ll believe that Dan is a man that Paul has met on his travels, and you’ll want to meet him yourself too. The album closer ‘Follow the River’ has a film soundtrack-style quality to it and is a fitting end to a surprising and somewhat startling journey. This is an album sure to appeal to fans of awkward and surreal pop in the vein of the Voluntary Butler Scheme, The Flaming Lips and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
You can buy ‘Lie Back and Think of England’ from Bandcamp.