The world is presently plagued by a surfeit of acoustic folk acts with experimental electronic tendencies, but British collective Tunng have been doing it longer than many and better than most. Turbine, their fifth album in a decade or so of existence, is a characteristically engaging collection of experiments, sounding as whole lot like what might have resulted if Heath Robinson had ever attempted pop music.
Not every one of Tunng’s ambitious contraptions quite fires up as they might have hoped: “So Far From Here” sounds a bit like someone trying to learn funk as they go along, and the coda of “The Village,” deliberately dosed with technical hiccup, rapidly grows annoying. But the best moments are lovely, the more so for their modesty. On several occasions Tunng give the impression that they’re about to surge into an all-join-hands sing-along — and that they could if they really felt like it — and then restrain themselves. Opening track “Once” therefore leavens an otherwise straightforward you-only-live-once homily with an appealing, careworn
wisdom; the pastoral and pretty “By This” becomes all the more so by not overselling it.
“Turbines” is an ambitious record at pains to appear diffident, and uplifting record determined to be deadpan. Its creators remain an intriguing confabulation of contradictions.