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The Third Man - Beyond the Heliosphere

There is a place for consistency; thus, keen followers of Toby Leeming’s Third Man project will be pleased at the fare on offer in his debut album Beyond The Heliosphere. The hallmarks of his  broad-church techno sound are simple and timeless: quality production, melody, and emotion. There isn’t much deviation from this blueprint on the album, and although that might sound equivocal, it makes for a uniformly excellent LP. 

However, your personal enjoyment may depend on your capacity to experience human feelings. A sociopath might not enjoy lead single “Double Dawn”, the metallic stabs in its unexpectedly propulsive techno containing a smidgeon of bittersweet melancholy; or “Betrayal Of Another”, billowing with Detroit harmonies and suppressed peaks. Even the harder dancefloor moments (ripping “The Tracker” and the blank-eyed, breaky “Beneath The Mine Chamber”) sparkle with unobtrusive consonance.

A quirk is the relative lack of four-to-the-floor, at least until the end of the album, the beat programming taking more influence from Carl Craig-esque breakbeat, electro (especially “Battle For The Tabernacle”), and tricksier IDM (on the elegant, bleeping “A Hero Scene”). So the fist-pumping Italo influences on “Pipes At Helios Canyon” are all the more noticeable, though, like all the best Italo-Disco, despair doesn’t feel so far away.

The album closes with a shorter sketch (“The Lantern”) and a monster One More Tune. As one might expect, “Free Man” doesn’t so much tug the heartstrings as pre-soak them in MDMA to make them more pliable, with a bite from Badalamenti: “Go” with the lights on. It’s perhaps not quite as effective an end-of-the-nighter as 2010’s “Tangier” but it works fantastically well in context.

For me, Beyond The Heliosphere recalls other melodic explorers like Donnacha Costello or Ewan Pearson. It’s not exactly a sonic similarity, more the sense of being in the presence of a craftsman ploughing a furrow of electronic pathos. And like them, Leeming is clearly someone who can consistently deliver wonderful, enduring electronic music; if that’s a blueprint, then please keep building to order.

Sam Stagg

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