Speak In Storms
It’s been a full eight years since there was a new Seabound LP, but the more casual listener (like yours truly) could be forgiven for thinking otherwise given that Frank Spinath’s voice has been a near constant presence in clubs and releases of a certain continental vibe. From Edge Of Dawn to Ghost & Writer, and guest spots with Liquid Divine, Minerve and plenty of others, Spinath’s smooth tones haven’t been far from our ears since 2006’s Double-Crosser. While we certainly wouldn’t complain about that, that regular proximity makes Speak In Storms‘ resolute focus on vocals, to the occasional detriment of all other elements, all the more puzzling.
The compositions on Spinath and Martin Vorbrodt’s fourth full LP together are uniformly well-arranged and developed as we’ve come to expect from the outfit, but around half of them are inobtrusive to the point of vanishing. We first heard “The Escape” nearly two years ago, but its hushed beats and spoken-sung vocal haven’t done that much to distinguish themselves in the interim. Similarly, the slinky “Liberty Rose” feels as though it’s perpetually looking for a way to escape the listener’s ears.
Tracks like these might have their roots in early tunes like 2001’s sedate “Point Break”, but unlike that tune, on much of Speak In Storms instrumentation almost apologetically fades into the background, fearful of distracting the listener from Spinath’s vocal performances. That’s perhaps not the worst idea when you have someone with as engaging a voice at the front of your project, but time and again Spinath’s shown that he can share the spotlight with more fleshed out songs, both in his side projects, as well as on countless older Seabound tracks which don’t sacrifice one member’s contributions for the sake of the other’s.
For all of this grumbling, listening to Speak In Storms has never been a chore over the past couple of weeks, and it definitely has some highlights. The slow burn of “Lair” and the downtempo chunkiness of “A Grown Man” work their way under the skin after multiple listens and “For Another Day” shows that a more minimal song structure doesn’t totally have to cede the floor. “Everything” is a classic futurepop jam that’s perfectly suited for freeway driving at sunset, and on “Nothing But Love” rolling beats and skimming synths are matched by a winning vocal paired with soaring pads. Aided by the deep yet airy production that’s always set Seabound apart from their peers, these select tracks are full-on winners.
Bringing some out of the gate classics but also hampered by half-measures, more than a striking return, Speak In Storms feels like business as usual for Seabound. If you’ve been happy enough with Spinath’s other work of late (as I have) that you hadn’t lost sleep over the timing of Seabound’s reemergence, then that’s just fine: Speak In Storms should provide some chill enjoyment and the odd club joint. While plenty of die-hards will be overjoyed just to have any new Seabound at hand, I wonder if a few of them might be setting their sights too high.