On his second album as Corridor, Michael Quinn manages the tricky task of making Real Late sound like the work of a band, not a solo artist. By layering spidery guitar work, crisp drums, and atypical instruments like cello and piano, Quinn builds up these songs into constructions complex enough to reward repeat listens and but free of the claustrophobia that can come from stacking tracks on top of one another. The songs drone, but usually over a steady, hypnotic beat.
Real Late sports frequently circular motifs, subdued but rhythmically intricate in a Krautrock way, but there’s an ’80s-style Rough Trade vibe, too. Unexpectedly, the laid-back vocals and post-rockist rhythmic interplay remind me most of Appliance, which is surely the first time I’ve ever made that comparison. With an oddly similar feel, "Pieces of Work" features dispassionately declamatory vocals and a straight-ahead beat that together sound like late-model Wire.
Guitar usually takes center stage, from chiming chords to intricate classical passages and the occasional outburst of distortion, while the drums click-clack along at a fairly determined medium tempo. The moments where the beat takes on a stronger character, like the opening of "C.I.T.M." and the closing "Acclaim" with its chugging rhythm, stand out, but it’s the unusual pieces — like the harrowing cello frenzy that opens "Rebuilding My Internal World" and the piano-led romp later in "C.I.T.M." — that are most memorable.
The varied musical character is balanced by Quinn’s vocals, which are calm and warm, but limited. Since the music feels very controlled — not cold, but somewhat remote — the singing is the emotional core, and Quinn’s voice doesn’t evoke so much as inform. His vocals are perfectly nice, but the overall feel of these songs is calmly dispassionate. Real Late is well structured and enjoyable, but it doesn’t pull you in.