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Always Returning

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Album Review

When we last heard from British dream pop band Engineers, they had morphed into a sort of 2.0 phase with founding members Dan McBean and Andrew Sweeney leaving the band and renowned German musician/producer Ulrich Schnauss along with Daniel Land and Matthew Linley joining. The new members' influence was evident, especially Schnauss', whose own dreamy shoegaze and warm electronica have made him a critical favorite since the late-'90s. The new lineup's first effort, 2010's In Praise of More, was hailed as an impressive turning point for the band, though the creative upheavals and personnel jostling would continue over the next few years. With the departure of original member and singer Simon Phipps, Engineers are now under the command of remaining founder multi-instrumentalist Mark Peters with Schnauss and Linley rounding out the trio. This streamlining of visions may have been the best thing to happen to them, as 2014's Always Returning is Engineers' most realized and engaging record yet. The production is lush yet concise with a tight, organic interplay between Peters' bass and Linley's drumming. Schnauss' heady, swirling stamp washes throughout the ten songs, which take the best elements from dream pop and orchestrated electronica, and bits of vintage prog and psychedelia. Always Returning is largely Peters' opus, with the other members' contributions arriving after he had already recorded the bulk of the songs at home. Still, this was no e-mailed Internet collaboration. A distinctly analog approach was taken from the start, with plenty of vintage recording gear, '70s processors and synths, and live bass and drums giving the songs a detailed richness not heard on previous releases. This warmth is reflected on the two opening tracks, the lovely and hypnotic "Bless the Painter" and the gorgeous lead single "Fight or Flight," whose woozy, melodic throb both enchants and soothes. There is even something of a soulful air on songs like the lovely ballad "Smiling Back," which channels mid-'70s Pink Floyd in its laid-back David Gilmour gentleness. Always Returning is altogether more languid and contemplative than the band's previous work, and Peters' hushed vocals skip and bob along the surface in classic, nearly inaudible shoegaze ambiguity. It's all part of the mystery of this well-crafted album, which was made with love and intention by seasoned artists who have landed on a combination that truly works.

Customer Reviews


Engineers up the ante by inserting Ulrich Schnauss full time. A shoegazy dream!


Formed: March, 2003 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The dream pop/shoegazer school of alternative pop/rock reached its commercial and artistic peak in the '90s, but noteworthy shoegazer bands continued to emerge in the 21st century -- and one of them was Engineers (not to be confused with Engineer, a brutal Syracuse, NY-based death metal combo that has recorded for the Metal Blade imprint Black Market Activities). Formed in London, England in May 2003, Engineers have been quite loyal to the dream pop/shoegazer aesthetic of the late '80s and early...
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