Almost five years have passed since Snowmobile (aka Francis Allen) began his musical journey somewhere along the Welsh coast. His first album, The World Keeps Spinning was a pleasant surprise; instrumental music with strong shoegaze-ambient qualities. It was not without its faults, sometimes a little jumpy, perhaps a little muddy being a first effort but on the whole, you really got a grasp of what Allen was trying to achieve: Ambient music without a sense of pretention and over extension. His next two albums 100 Years and Strangers followed similar templates whilst continously honing his craft musically and especially in the production sense.
Snowmobiles fourth full length; Empty Rooms continues where Strangers left off. Ambient shoegaze drones lifting themselves over simple percussion in "Everyone Is Leaving" propelling you into a veritable sonic dream sequence. The melodies and the tones do sound a little glitzy and gimmicky at times but they do harness Snowmobiles calling card admirably.
“Playmaker Wears Number 10” sheds some of the feathery textures apparent in the first tracks and through a driving drum beat, synth melodies and light guitar tunes lays down an absolutely remarkable number (perhaps his best yet). I often have preferred it when Allen takes his music by the balls and really goes for a more rooted foundation rhythmically that would then naturally filter into the upper echelons of the layers and textures of his music. The end of the song lifts itself in a flurry of synths and jumpy drum beats before fading away into another solid song; “Kelly Kapowski” – a classic Snowmobile track which not only sees Allen once again grabbing the rhythmic section with both hands but also lets fly with the very space like synth melodies and reverb laden guitar tones.
The last few tracks on the album follow patterns all too familiar by this point and although that is not a bad thing, I cannot help but yearn for a little more drive and a little more ‘umpf’ behind the tracks similarly to the two tracks I mentioned earlier. Snowmobile is sometimes just that little bit too comfortable and relies a little too much on his trusted ambient sounds and synths to flesh out a nice sofa for himself. However this is not to say he re-wrote the exact same album four times, he just allowed his music to become more cohesive yet free of any kind of limitations. It was clear that there was always a true dreamer at the helm of each album but when will it be time, if ever, to really try something a little different? Only he knows the answer to that but in the mean time I will fully immerse myself into another one of his releases, and you should too.
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