One-half of Brighton-based duo Grasscut is Andrew Phillips, a man you're unlikely to have heard of but whose previous musical endeavours you might have come across. Phillips is a composer for television programmes, ranging from award-winning documentaries to A-lister-starring dramas. This background, you might think, should set him and collaborator double-bassist Marcus O'Dair in good stead for an engrossing debut album. Yet the opposite is, decisively and disappointingly, correct.
Music for television is rarely designed to impose, operating as complementary shading to a bigger (moving) picture. Here, without any imagery to accompany its flights of sample-based fancy, Grasscut's experimental electronica lacks focus, and thusly direction enough to encourage repeat listens in full. It's endearingly playful and dizzyingly scattergun of style, evidently the work of talented individuals who know a thing or two about genre-splicing. Cherry-pick your favourites after a cursory investigation and a handful of these nine tracks will become stereo staples, at least in the short term. But seemingly arbitrary sequencing and an inability to establish any lasting atmosphere means 1 Mile / ½ Inch is a difficult record to digest.
Not that its constituents aren't without charm. The Door in the Wall skips over a fluctuating, sliced-and-diced backing that's part DJ Shadow, part cracked-and-crackly shellac stuck on an inescapable run-out groove. The Tin Man features a 1920s tenor buried beneath clanking steampunk sounds, and Old Machines bounces to a thoroughly modern beat while summoning ghosts of circuitry long past its sell-by date - each hiss and fizz could be product of pop spilled over early home computers. Closer In Her Pride contains snippets of a Victorian poet talking (and singing) of the maintenance of the sublime - but in terms of the word's aesthetical definition, this record falls short of achieving the elevated appeal its makers no doubt intended. There's too much happening here for it not to have been designed as the grandest possible statement of intent.
Phillips and O'Dair should feel proud that they have created an album that will have no sound-alike peers in 2010. It might well never have any, although parallels are apparent at intermittent junctures - old trip hop, the found-sound eeriness of under-the-radar Dorset brothers Reigns, the BioShock videogame soundtrack, Hot Chip with a limp, creaky graveyard gates. But without too many obvious reference points it's a puzzling concoction. Perhaps Phillips can call in a few favours and commission the film needed to bring this unique work to life.