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Album Review: A Lesson In Repression by Black International

Scottish duo Black International have released their debut album A Lesson In Repression. It’s a dark and brooding album that conjures a modern and bastardised version of The Fall, Shellac or Sonic Youth. What you’ll find most appealing about A Lesson In Repression is the stripped back raw energy, there’s something ethereal and magical to it.

Band members Stewart Allan (vocals, guitar & keyboards) and Craig Peebles (drums & percussion), from Midlothian, Scotland, took over a former Victorian manse and temporarily transformed it into a working studio. This allowed the duo to live and breathe the creative processes of their sophomore album, improvising structures, words and arrangements. With the aid of sound engineer Andrew Bush (The Twilight Sad), the band has created an album with a full and commanding sound that should be beyond a two piece.

Opener ‘Shining Swords’ is an early highlight that transports you back to the early 90s, making you reminisce about the first time you discovered Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. It’s a haunting and atmospheric track that also takes in hints of a well structured pop song. ‘A Fence To Keep People Out’ has a brilliant riff at the 2 minute 35 second mark yet it doesn’t work as effectively as the opener. ‘Animal Without Backbone’ as featured in our singles round up, is a storming rock song and shows Black International at their best. Stewart Allen’s vocal stretches over the music, complementing the drawn out guitar riffs and excellent structure. The urgency and raw energy really comes to the fore here and as such it’s a song that resonates and alludes to Black International’s poweress.

With ‘A Constellation’ the gentle guitar work sits just above the throbbing drumbeat creating an atmospheric sound that threatens to explode before acoustic guitars duel with the commanding drums and the track disappears into 90s experimentation. The atmospherics are carried through to ‘Inner Temple’; its short nature however makes it feel a little more like filler though. Normal service is resumed with the excellent ‘Silence’ that spits out a visceral mix of distorted guitars and throbbing drumbeats. It is in this sound that Black International excels. That in itself is a shame as throughout A Lesson In Repression the band try a more chilled sound which just doesn’t work as well – ‘Drew Drops’, ‘Red Tape Satan’ and ‘In The Lion’s Den’ have the potential to be great but just seem to fall a little flat.

If every track on A Lesson In Repression hit the mark like ‘In the Sun’ and ‘Primitive Method’ then you could be calling this out as one of the best Scottish albums released in 2015. It’s disappointing that it doesn’t all come together as well as it could, yet the good outweighs the bad enough for you to enjoy and fall for the album. If Black International hone their sound a little more then you could be witnessing the next big rock band.

AD Rating 6.5/10

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