‘Atomised’ is the project of a Cambridge based band, featuring singer/song writer Andrew Ashworth and fellow song writer/guitarists Paul Ambrose and Greg Reid. Featuring a DIY aesthetic that has been lacking recently in the music industry, ‘Virtual Strangers’ is an LP rich in emotion and blends of guitars from a spectrum of genres.
Melodic, dreamy and uplifting, the tone of the album makes for easy listening with intriguing lyrics subtly emphasising the pain of living in the ‘modern world’. ‘Tinselhead’ stresses this immediately through mixtures of rhythmic minor chords and infectious lead guitar riffs; the lyrics in the chorus are pretty catchy too as Ashworth mourns “this is real life” over his band.
Although it sets up the album well, the first track is not my favourite cut from the LP; the evident mainstream indie influences in ‘Slipping On Tightropes’ really stick with you. The orchestral elements complement the acoustic guitar, making the song flow effortlessly, whilst helping you to remain intrigued by the instrumental elements of the track. A distinctive feature of the album is its reference to space and extraterrestrial themes, the delay on the guitar in the concluding track arouses a psychedelic feeling and with lines like “the stars aline” you cannot help but feel this way.
Not knowing what to expect, I went to Atomised’s most recent gig in the upstairs of a local pub. The six members were crammed at the front of the room, playing to a congested crowd of mixed ages, but this just shows how versatile a record ‘Virtual Strangers’ is. The variation in instrumentation is why the record is so entrancing, but sometimes it seems as if certain layers of the music are thrown into the album to make the LP sound more complex, when really less would seem more in terms of the way many of the tracks pan out. The use of the trumpets in ‘No More Secrets’ doesn’t necessarily add to the song and thus it sounds a little over-produced. However the trumpets work in a different way on ‘Virtual Strangers’, the title track of the album, where the brass instruments create an ironic sense of social triumph that Ashworth often states is lacking in today’s World.
Originally, after my first play of the album, the drum patterns felt all too comparable throughout the record and thus the tempo was initially very similar. Listening to the album again I found that in tracks like ‘Impossible World’ Ashworth and Co proved me wrong. This song is certainly one of the most intriguing, the female vocals set a different tone to the record and harmonise with the piano to amplify a more mystical atmosphere than any of the other songs.
This album deserves more success than it is receiving now, you can listen to my favourite track ‘Slipping On Tightropes’ here: