Floating in with the perfectly titled ominous synth groans of “Black Zone,” The Tower finds the Legendary Pink Dots really starting to gel as a conceptual effort all around, with increasingly involved arrangements and all the more harrowing performances. The Tower is in many ways an album of striking moments suddenly surfacing in excellent songs — the violin parts on “Vigil-Anti,” the sudden keyboard sparkles on the drifting, building moodout “Poppy Day” — prettiness turned brutal at the stop of a dime. The use of hollow electronic percussion detracts a bit from the atmospheres the group tries to create, but the emphasis on the rhythms often comes courtesy of mostly keyboards and synth bass, suggesting waltzes and horror movie settings at the same time. Even when things get a bit chirpy on The Tower, it’s the chirpiness of dancing on a very, very narrow ledge above oblivion. A song like “Break Day” may start in cheery enough music-box fashion, but the combination of feedback and Ka-Spel‘s keening voice on the chorus makes for a simple but effective touch, a further punch on an endless downward spiral. His mock toff accent toward the end is a hilarious touch as well. Though not a concept album per se, Ka-Spel lyrically pursues the titular image through five sequentially named tracks throughout the album — “Tower 1,” “Tower 2,” etc. — an intriguing approach more groups would do well to embrace instead of simply trying to write bad opera. Of those tracks, “Tower 1” has some of the best parts, twinkling keyboards and Ka-Spel‘s overdubbed voice reciting names like a demented schoolteacher, while “Tower 4” is in many ways a tribute to late-70s Bowie, of all things. Nice cameo moment — Lilly Ak‘s lead vocal on “Astrid,” a fine contrast to Ka-Spel‘s usual approach which inadvertently invents most female goth vocalists’ approaches in the ’90s.
by Ned Raggett
(The date of this review is unknown)