Flotation Toy Warning have returned after a 13 year break with their second full-length album ‘The Machine That Made Us’ and pick up exactly where they left off. Formed in a warehouse in London way back in 2001 and taking their name from words they found on rubber rings and beach balls, Flotation Toy Warning borrow as much from the Americana genre as they do from modern pop or electronic records and throw them into a melting pot to produce an original and interesting sound with little comparison due to their experimental nature. Their musical styling is often compared to artists such as Grandaddy or Mercury Rev and vocalist Paul Carter could be likened to The National’s Matt Berninger at times, however, this is no indication of the band’s sound and their true originality.
The fascinating thing about Flotation Toy Warning is the way they blend the use of traditional instruments with drum loops and sample sounds and create a contemporary sound, outside of genre boundaries, somewhere between traditional folk/Americana and modern day electronic music and although that is a very delicate line to tread, they do it confidently and manage to recall their influences without imitating anyone. Album highlights include the first single and midway point of the record, King Of Foxgloves – a slow-burning song led by a distinct keyboard phrase over a drum loop and backed up with some haunting backing vocals and the distinctive monotonic yet sincere vocals of Carter, the repetitive-yet-charming Everything That Is Difficult Will Come To An End and A Season Underground which instrumentally drifts along in a dreamy haze with vocals reminiscent of the old crooners eventually descending into a more experimental electronic sound featuring string and vocal effects and an infectious piano riff.
Lyrically, the record is strong and albeit at times heavy-going as it can be quite wordy however, the record is interspersed with jabs of humour, most blatantly found on the third track Everything That Is Difficult Will Come To An End allowing their quirky sense of humour to shine through whilst still pondering the complexities of love, relationships and life itself. Cleverly, the record serves multiple purposes as the instrumentation is often mellow, simple and trance-like and would make the perfect soundtrack to an evening drive or a relaxing evening however, due to the lyrical content and the themes within, there is plenty to explore to incite some deep thought showing two sides of the same coin and giving the record another level of diversity on top of the aforementioned.
Overall, the record is refreshingly experimental and has a brilliant DIY, restraint-free feel to it but without the band diving so far into the rabbit hole that it becomes difficult to listen to or alienating to fans of their previous work and is the mark of a band looking to break down the barriers of genre so often seen in the music world and make something that they want to make. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another 13 years for the follow-up!