The members of Sian Alice Group are all from the UK, but judging by the sound of Troubled, Shaken Etc., you might guess that they hailed from somewhere further north. The trio’s sophomore album is largely made up of hypnotic dirges and haunting ballads which evoke Sigur Rós or Björk at her mellowest. The album opens with “Love That Moves the Sun,” over four minutes of pattering jazz percussion and chiming guitar arpeggios. Aside from some indecipherable, angelic vocals and the introduction of a tom drum halfway through, nothing much changes throughout the entire song.
This sets the tone for a collection that favours atmosphere over songwriting, scarcely ever offering something with a recognizable structure. “Airlock” is three minutes of pulsing, ambient tones; “Vanishing” is an electro-tropical jam that sounds a bit like (bear with me here) the soundtrack to the Crash Bandicoot videogames. For most artists, such tracks would be experimental interludes; here, they’re the main attraction.
Occasionally the band lifts the mood slightly, as on the four-on-the-floor thump of “Low Lights,” but singer Sian Ahern’s waifish singing means that even these songs end up sounding like spectral creep-outs. It’s not your ideal party soundtrack, but it sure is pretty.