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Solo (Independent)

You could drive a truck - a long, articulated one with that comfy bed behind the driver’s seat and a stereo system to envy - a good portion of the way across Europe fuelled only by Inside Outerspace, the third track on Brendan Maclean’s new EP.

Yes, you’d have to have it on repeat, for even at a tick under eight minutes it would not quite get you all the way, but that would be anything but a concern. If anything is wrong with this song it might be that it’s only about half the right length.

It begins in cruise mode, a light techno set-up that for two minutes builds its presence with, at first, a mix of squelchy bass line and plinky synth note, then, at 45 seconds an electric piano line and a more consistent rhythm, and then 30 seconds later a skip up into a more pulsing mode that tucks into the passing lane.

When Maclean’s voice arrives, “the sky is bright now we have cleared the atmosphere”, it isn’t simply euphoric as might be assumed with the imagery and the expectation that we’re about to climb to a climax.

Instead it carries a mix of optimism (there’s freedom and untethered responsibility) and a seam of uncertainty (what’s being left behind, what’s to come?) that suits the extended metaphor of space standing in for the giddy, dangerous moments of the new: new relationship, new physical experience, new vulnerability.

What’s interesting even as the pulse does seem to build – more in the emphasis of certain instruments than tempo – and the imperative to dance is ever-present (and I recommend giving in to it) is that we never get that explosion.

Inside Outerspace is a song about being on the edge of something, that brief and yet seemingly endless moment between taking the step and falling/jumping. It’s almost eight minutes of waiting to breathe.

This hugely impressive track is followed what you might think is a safe route, a slower remake of Never Enough, which appeared on the mini-album funbang1 last year.

The original was a briskly rhythmic mid-tempo that nodded to both Eurythmics and Yazoo and was more happy/sad than sad. The new version, stripped of drum parts, has the voice paired with piano initially and then they’re joined by inquisitive strings, Maclean’s voice taking a little extra tremble up high.

Rather than just safely making a ballad out of a regular song, tipping the balance to sad over happy/sad, the new Never Enough adds some tender/tough layers in the mix of strings and keys and the greater exposure of Maclean’s voice. It holds up as more than a remix, rather an extension of thought.

Two earlier songs, Fighting For (a deliberately stiff-legged synth pop number about some completely foreseen bad choices) and Rot (a club moment less house than garage, with a delivery that is set at high arch) are good and as stand-alone tracks fare well.

However, it is in its second half that Solo really rises. And keeps rising. Something like Mr Maclean’s career I would venture.

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