It comes just 15 months after the universally acclaimed Three Fact Fader, which, as a result of record company restructuring, took four long years to appear; one of the two main reasons for the band’s sudden burst of creativity. “I have loads of records in my collection that are amazing but never came out at the time or were tragically underrated,” says guitarist and songwriter Mark Peters, “and ‘Three Fact Fader’ sitting on the shelf made me realise that the reality of this has none of the glamour you conjure up in your mind.”
The other reason for Engineers’ expeditiousness is a line-up change: out go Dan McBean and Andrew Sweeney (“No arguments or disagreements prompted anyone to leave, but when we got back together to play after Three Fact Fader was released it was clear we had all moved on personally and professionally”) and joining Mark and singer Simon Phipps are new drummer Matthew Linley, bassist Daniel Land and – most significantly – keyboardist (and German-born electronica genius) Ulrich Schnauss. “Ulrich and I first met a few years ago when we were both DJing at the same night,” recalls Mark. “He was always an avid supporter of the band and so it seemed only natural to ask him to play keyboards with us. When a line-up change comes together naturally it can inject a new lease of life into a band; there’s a real feeling of excitement and hunger.”
Although the majority of the songs on In Praise Of More were recorded by Mark, with the assistance of Dave Potter, Ulrich was on hand to offer advice and point out ways to make what were essentially home recordings sound as stately and elegant as they do. Taking in everything from the synth-heavy krautpop of To An Evergreen to the autumnal acoustic folk of There Will Be Time and the wintery piano instrumental Nach Hause, the album strips back the layers of sound that characterised the band’s previous releases, but remains just as powerful. One of the highlights, the beautifully understated Twenty Paces, which blends The Blue Nile with almost jazz-like rhythms, is the first track that Mark and Ulrich co-produced. It’s indicative of their fruitful creative partnership, which has already led to soundtrack work on Gregg Araki’s new film Kaboom and a forthcoming album of instrumentals. There really is no stopping them.
“Music has much more impact when it is more immediate,” explains Mark. “When it is reworked time after time it becomes more of a stylistic statement than an expression of how you feel.”
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And In Praise of More is very much about feelings: “Unexpected events in our private lives were the primary driving force behind many of the lyrical themes, and this is the first Engineers album where I really feel that every line I’ve written has a reference to a particular event or relationship. As usual it’s been a case of seeking escape and solace through music, but this time dealing with certain issues instead of just looking for a blissful way out.”
In this context the album’s title – from an essay by humanist scholar Erasmus – makes total sense: “It seemed the perfect way of expressing that we are thankful for retaining the motivation to be creative despite things not always going exactly to plan.”
For more info on Engineers go to www.kscopemusic.com/engineers
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