Adem is the bass player of underground band Fridge (another member of Fridge is Four Tet). This is his second solo release after 2004’s Homesongs. Which was a collection of songs loosely based on experiences of the Homefires music festival. Love & Other Planets is similarly loosely based on a concept: planets and the cosmos. What Adem has produced is a collection of songs all of which others have categorised as ‘Nu-folk’.
As I knew little about Adem before listening to this CD, I decided to do some research, maybe listen to a few MP3s, read some interviews and time and time again I came across the term ‘Nu-folk’. I am always wary of any term that is precluded by ‘Nu’ (see Avril Lavigne and Blink 182 re: ‘Nu-punk’). So I went to the online resource that is the be-all-and-end-all of all knowledge: Wikipedia. According to the online encyclopaedia, ‘Nu-folk’ is “the catch all term to describe the loose grouping of musicians working in the folk music idiom”. Hmmm! Still not sure! Perhaps the last paragraph of the entry is the most telling, “for many it is a term used by lazy journalists”. Anyway back to the review. ‘Love & Other Planets’ is primarily a ‘Nu-folk’ record (only kidding!).
Whatever ‘Nu-folk’ is, if Adem is an example of the genre, then it is acoustic guitars coupled with electronic beats and various sound effects layered over the top. Indeed, at times the album sounds awfully arty and can even verge on the pretentious (depending on one’s point of view). Lyrically, Adem’s songs are as out there as the planets, Hayleys Comet and even the dark depths of the universe. At times it can sound ridiculous but it is refreshing to hear someone open their soul and pour their emotions out onto record. Traditional themes of love and loss are supplemented with more conceptual ideas such as infinity, time and space. On paper it shouldn’t work, but Adem is just about able to tie all of this together.
But I do feel that where this album works best is in the simpler, more ‘traditional’ songs (for want of a better word). ‘Something’s going to come’ has a great laid back beat and brilliant layered vocals and is the perfect acoustic track for the summer. All is needed is a beer, a barbeque and a joint (or two) and it would be almost the perfect song. ‘Sea of Tranquillity’ does exactly what it says on the tin and is an oasis of calm and beauty. ‘Spirals’ is more ‘dark’ and lyrically conceptual but certainly continues to produce an amazing sense of calm and serenity.
Where one can criticise Adem is the fact that I feel that once one has peeled away the ‘Nu-folk’ elements to his songs, we are left with perhaps weaker material which has been hidden by the bells and whistles added to these essentially solo acoustic guitar tunes. However, this is perhaps due to my own personal taste and it may prove to be more popular with others. Especially those who are fans of other ‘Nu-folk’ artists.
Overall, Love & other Planets is an album that will appeal to many out there. If, like I was, you are sceptical, then I suggest you give Adem a try. You may surprise yourself and actually appreciate some of the tunes. However, even I must admit that there are some songs which leave me indifferent and cold. This album is definitely worth trying before buying but it certainly is one of the more accessible ‘Nu-folk’ records out there that I have heard.