It comes as no surprise that, on top of his musical endeavours, Mark Buckeridge boasts a rather applauded art-school background. Why so? Well, ‘Talking Is Good For You’, the latest EP from the Cork-based musician, feels like the aural equivalent of an exhibition. More specifically, listening to it is reminiscent of walking around an obscure, minimalist gallery, one of those stark and glaringly white spaces filled with abstract pieces and abstract persons; it seems impossibly cool and cultured until you realise it’s actually just slightly uncomfortable.
There’s a sense of unease and edginess running through the five tracks that leaves them at a distance too far away to ever completely reach. Abandoning traditional pop or rock sensibilities, Buckeridge instead opts for a more lo-fi and experimental flair, founded on raw vocals, odd samples, and blunt percussion. It’s always different and usually interesting, but, at the same time, a little intimidating, given that it’s hard to fully enjoy the songs when you’re busy concentrating on whether you “get” them.
Take opener I Can’t Talk To You; based around stripped-back organ and drums, and repeating its lyrics like they’re rousing mantras, it’s half unsettling, half compelling. The curious nautical samples and drowning vocals of Swimming At The Sea notch up the unrest, and, while O That Noise doesn’t exactly eschew the seemingly random sampling, it’s much more animated and energised, and a much better listen for it.
They’re not your typical opening tracks, but the two closers go on to represent the low and high points of the record respectively. The lifeless backing and pretty dire lyrics of All My Love make for one of the shortest and least sexy songs about “physical love” you’re ever likely to hear. But at least that means To Fall Asleep, already the EP highlight, sounds even stronger. Drenched with jagged guitars, it has a brilliantly dreamy feel and – for probably the only time here – an actual melody.
And therein lies the puzzle. To Fall Asleep is the most familiarly-structured track on the record, and arguably the best; it’s a song that feels like it’s made to engage rather than to show, one that you don’t have to think about to figure out if you understand or, more importantly, even like it. If the other tracks veered further in this direction, maybe ‘Talking Is Good For You’ wouldn’t be the somewhat perplexing experience that it is; whether that’s Buckeridge’s intention or not, though, is another question.