Clinic: Free Reign

    On their self-produced seventh studio album, Liverpool-based art-rock outfit Clinic turn up the funk. While 2010’s “Bubblegum” favored the folksy sound of harpsichord and acoustic guitar, “Free Reign” moves in an opposite, synth-laden direction, using sci-fi sound effects to produce a psychedelic trip of an album.

    “Free Reign” jams its simple organ and synth riffs throughout, creating a sense of perpetual motion. In “Seesaw,” rhythmic repetition is countered by lush swells (produced by the melodica, a mini-piano wind instrument) calming us before our launch. Ade Blackburn hums tenderly into the mic as the mellow, alternating cymbals and organ of “For the Season” continue the deceptively peaceful trance.

    Far-off animal cries usher in “King Kong,” where repetitious organ stabs evoke an eerie walk across an alien terrain, punctuated by distant bongo drums, whose corresponding musicians seem to be watching us from a distance.

    By the end of the album, it appears all is well and we are chilling in a cafe, enveloped by the jazz stylings of Clinic’s wind instruments in “Sun and the Moon.” The serenity dissipates though, as Blackburn’s voice becomes mufled and the non-musical sound effects tear through the song and, subsequently, our sense of security.

    While “Free Reign” is a gratifying surprise, the band’s main elements — electric guitar, wind instruments and throaty vocals — remain intact. In “Free Reign”, Clinic mixes the usual prescription of indie rock with synth effects and wind instruments, and the result is nothing short of addictive. (8/10)

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