Now on their third album, after a self-titled debut in 2018 (on Edition Records) and Vermillion in 2022 (on ECM), the dynamic Enemy trio is seeking new directions (on a third label) with a set of 12 tracks all written by Downes and Eldh and recorded in a single day.
It’s an album of “purposeful contradictions and a shedding of skin”, played by a band that “doesn’t really rehearse, playing a lot live, taking risks, always writing new music, always playing as fresh as possible”, and constantly evolving in the process.
The contrast with Vermillion is considerable, for where there was once echo and reverb, now there is a stronger rhythmic intensity and a more compact sound. The band seems tighter than before, and more focused, as none of these tracks lasts much more than a couple of minutes, EB coming in at a brief 1.41.
Throughout, there are sudden twists and turns and abrupt changes of tempo, keeping true to the band’s motto (if they actually had one) of “no risk, no fun”. James Maddren is the driving force, insisting that each track keeps pushing forward in determined fashion, Petter Eldh is the innovative composer and agile supporter, while Kit Downes keeps suggesting new directions to take, new avenues to explore.
But this makes it sound as if their music is based on individual contributions rather than the result of long-time collaboration and friendship. On a track like Sun, they all swing like hell, creating music that sounds far bigger than the sum of its three parts, while Fiend is a rich piano-led theme set against a clattering drum accompaniment that suddenly kicks up its heels at the end. Close Up, too, brings out the best in Downes’s full hands-on delivery, while Manipulate showcases Eldh’s adept finger-work as Downes contributes a range of effects from inside his piano. Throughout, occasional and well-placed studio interventions create some extra layers of sound.
The Betrayal is the sound a band having fun in the studio, of creating big and swinging music in real time, of constant experimentation and exploration, with many directions suggested, tried out, perfected, thrown out and taken up again, often within a single track. I’m lost with the Croydon references, and have idea who or what is being betrayed, but no matter. This whole album is just fine, the colourful pink marbled vinyl LP a magnificent artefact. Enjoy.
Croydon Smash; Hollywood By Pass; Neglecting Number One; Sun; Morfar Sixten; Fiend; Close Up; EB; Manipulate; Liability; Croydon Shuffle; Army Of Three (36.15)
Kit Downes (p); Petter Eldh (b); James Maddren (d). Hansa Tonstudio, Berlin, April 2022
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