Charge Group's debut, Escaping Mankind, was the documentation of a weekend escape. Not a pleasant little camping trip soaking up sunshine at a seaside fishing spot, smuggling budgies and burning Rod Marsh-shaped marshmallows, but more like a winter refuge into the dark, deserted wilderness, an existence primarily occupied by gin, discarded baggage, vintage cricket tales and some overdue mind-clearing. And this, their second record, is the result of that creative reawakening.
The most notable difference this time around is a heavier reliance on experimentation. While hardly discarding their unique sound and becoming lost within an unrelatable world of envelope pushing, the band focus more on incompatibility, playing out scenes of a restless voyage by dragging out the parameters of their knife-edge fragility. The almost-instrumental, Run, as well as the equally frantic Search Party, both present sporadically delivered boxing duels, built around an almost unsettling sense of urgency. The Jaguar Complex is equally ambitious, melting together reversed snippets alongside the group's soothing orchestral base to create a composition that darts between the trees, while simultaneously appreciating the slow motion, scene-ending explosions that occur all around. And then there's Broken Sunlight, an unapologetically uptempo pop song, brightly decorated, cleanly cut in an all white suit, skipping through fields of blooming optimism.
But for all these experimental voyages, the group are still at their best when they're musically translating the dying words of a man hanging on for dear life at the Edge Of Reason, watching the mood ring on his ever-slipping hand fade from pink to black, before somehow finding the strength to prevail and resurge himself back into human existence. It's within this sense of tragic romanticism, an everyday underdog prevalence, that the poetic one-liners of Matt "Black Man" Blackman are at their most powerful, jumping out from the slow-grinding violin and rock backdrop and snuggling up next to your memory glands, settling in for a billion years of comfortable rehearsal.
This emotional control is highlighted best on opener The Gold Is Gone, which plots a journey from reflective acceptance to a destination of celebratory triumph, weaving through the stirring transition on the power of Blackman's quotable lyrics, and the occasional groan of exhaustion. I Saw The Leaves Falling Back To Their Branches melts under a similar vein of fatigue, even struggling to find the required energy to philosophically ponder the existence of a thin slither of death between dreams and life. While the instrumental closer, Janet's Song, presents the often overshadowed emotive power of the band's music, delicately tip-toeing through the most tragic scene your memory can conjure up.
While the standouts on this album might mostly exist within the tight confines of the band's reflective tone, the variance displayed is a necessary requirement, with the experimental jaunts scattered throughout providing the required refuge from the often emotionally draining nature of the band's core sound. The amalgamation of which is an album that sounds fresh and unapologetically ambitious, constantly changing directions under the solitary guidance of passionate authenticity. This album is the product of creative restlessness, more than bored venturing, and a natural sideways exploration from one of this country's finest bands.