For Years, the debut album from Airhead aka Rob McAndrews marks the four year transition from student producer to international touring musician, playing to vast audiences across the world as guitarist for his childhood friend James Blake, writing and jamming in the studio with James and Brian Eno, and DJing on the finest club soundsystems modern technology has to offer.
It spans from tracks like ‘Azure Race’, ‘Milkola Bottle’ and ‘Knives’ (featuring James) – the kind of intensely introspective and sometimes “forlorn and sad” atmospheres you’d expect from a young man fiercely dedicated to his craft above all else – through to more recent tracks like ‘Callow’ and the sun-dappled ‘Fault Line’ with their gentle female vocals and playful rhythms.
The field recordings and delicately picked-out guitar melodies of ‘Wait’ and the hesitant claps that explode into huge reverberations through the creepy-crawling undulations of ‘Knives’ have been boosted and sharpened via Rob’s experience of playing on the legendary soundsystem of London’s Plastic People. So although they sound like the products of being lost in thought, they are also present in the room and glitter with a sense of pure pleasure in sound for its own sake.
The more recent tracks like ‘Autumn’ with its Bossanova-sounding lilt and swaying melodies, or the trippy and playful sub-bass house rhythm of ‘Fault Line’, conversely, have all the depth of thought and emotion that the earliest compositions do. They may ride along on infectious grooves, but each one contains untold details that speak of reflection and strange mental spaces explored. So the past is filtered through the present and vice versa, all wrapped together with impeccably honed skill in a package that never feels like a simple narrative: enter into ‘For Years’ and it’s like a strange and beautiful building that you’ll want to explore differently each time. Even after many listens you’ll find spaces opening up you’d never come across before, sometimes with the finest detail revealing something new that will leave you breathless and speechless… in a good way.