Fragments of Folk and Blues rundown the bumpy spine of Ampersand’s debut; the record’s groove, glam and whispers mostly stem from a beaten up acoustic – continuously picked and played – everything here, it seems, starts organically. The synths, laptops, drum machines warp and wander with the initial seeds of thought – building rhythms, growing with numerous channels – leftfield electronics to Pop standard padding. Yet never does it stray from its up close production – a DIY charm and a consistently infectious grasp on melody.
I_Am-Ampersand is Matt Hainsby – the ‘&’ in Fujiya & Miyagi (so now you get the moniker). These songs span from pre-F&J onwards – Hired Hands vaguely connects the two – from its inward reflection to motorik take-off. Other than that this is all Hainsby and his electronic/acoustic hybrid musings – falling between the off-centre and strangely melancholic.
From the start the record feels intimate, the songs feel like stolen moments – when time presented itself Hainsby retreated to record, to build and to quietly hand us a record that we can’t stop spinning.
On listening to this debut, Mike Lindsay, frontman for the Folk-infused Tunng and now Cheek Mountain Thief, sounds emancipated – which kinda ties in with the record’s backstory. Lindsay fell in love with an Icelandic girl, moving there during a break with Tunng and working with the village locals to put down much of what we hear here. It was finished in Rejkjavik with more locals, Mum member Gunni Tynes mixing the whole thing down.
Lindsay has clearly embraced the Icelandlic cultures and much of what colours their music, the enthusiastic strums from the acoustic, the pounding percussion and the various wind and string instruments that embellish what feels like a communal celebration of one man’s discovery. From the title track opener we’re led onwards with speedily picked guitars and a rounded tom beaten like a beacon for the love of this new found landscape. Lindsay’s semi-whispered tones rally his backing band until at the midpoint it starts over – only for it all to march back to the summit.
Strain with its brass intro and call and return shared vocals is another euphoric clatter of drum and guitar – and whilst Iceland may be a thousand plus miles from Lindsay’s homeland the sound remains fairly close to Tunng’s modern Folk template. That’s not to say this isn’t a new venture – it is – and the enthusiasm and soul he’s poured into these songs are witnessed on pretty much every note that is hit or picked.
Nothing lets us peek behind the musician’s walls – voices and giggles are laid under the love-letter to his new found inspiration. It makes for one of the most touching and heartfelt songs Lindsay has ever put down on tape and sent glacial shivers down my spine. Personally I’m more excited about what Cheek Mountain Thief does next rather than Tunng, which seems to suggest Lindsay has made a rather good record.
The Tourist EP was created by Hampshire based bedroom electronica artist Seams (James Welch) whilst living in Berlin. Now released together as a double ep with Sleeper (made over a year later, back in Hampshire), these two rather different sets of tracks make for an enlightening and contrasting listen.
Opening track Hung Markets’ steel drum section begins the album weightlessly and airily, delicately layered with rustling field recordings and woven around programmed sections. Tourist’s four tracks accompany a growing imagination in transit, an ideal listen whilst traveling alone. The instant impression of comfort and discovery which ascends and descends subtly throughout the tracks remains unbroken as each new section relates to the last.
Ambient track Carnival is Tourist at its most reflective. The looped bongos and subtle melodic percussion sit nicely behind slowed down field samples for just under two and half minutes. It’s not the busiest track on the album, but enchanting all the same, setting the mood nicely for the rest of the ep.
Overall, Tourist nurtures a blank mind brilliantly. My first experience of hearing it was on a low budget cross country coach, and it happened to be the perfect soundtrack.
Sleeper’s opening track The Glow begins almost like a continuation of Tourist. The long intro is broken by a laid back drum beat and subtle bass line, both reminiscent of Tourist’s later tracks. Sleeper, however, has almost the opposite effect by the record’s end. The weightless and airy chapter that precedes it becomes a lot more bulky and claustrophobic, making the mood more urgent and inward rather than reflective.
Closing track The Long Wait brings the album to a dramatic ending. Rigid drum beats hold the track together whilst faint polyrhythmic samples dance around them, dominated by off-beat stabs that sound like an apocalyptic Game Boy. Sleeper is a fantastic and unexpected conclusion to something so eclectic.
Erland Cooper – lead vocalist and main songwriter for The Magnetic North – is from Orkney – a collection of islands in northern Scotland – and this album is a homage to these islands. Cooper’s music has always related to his roots, his previous project, Erland and The Carnival (also signed to Full Time Hobby), is known for reworking traditional British folk songs, albeit distorting them somewhat in the process.
Cooper takes a more ambient/acoustic angle here with bandmates Simon Tong and Hannah Peel. Utilising elaborate and extensive instrumentation and arrangement, the many layered string parts remind me of Smashing Pumpkins’ acoustic tracks. The smaller sounds (music boxes, mandolins, classical guitar) bring a sense of quiet magic, in their best moments the horns and larger percussion gives the sense of panning out, the islands themselves reverberating in a panoramic view.
Orkney is quiet – 20 of the 70 islands being inhabited and all sporting rich and varied plant/animal life. It’s a beautiful place to write about and second track, High Life, nails the vision for me. Its main melody is sweet and wistful whilst the homespun percussion creates a authentic rustic feel. Rackwick also works, the strings in the chorus so subtle you hardly notice them, that is until they are thrashing out lead melodies.
I have to say the dream fades in places. Some of the tracks are over-arranged which gives the album, overall, a bit of an identity crises; although it’s engaging for the same reason. The synthesized sounds are jarring at times (especially in Ward Hill), and occasionally out of place. Too often the melodies feel a little too obvious, the high female tones slipping into a touch of nursery rhyme. I also feel that for an album pulling out all the stops musically, there could be a stronger emotional presence in the songs; too often they fail to connect.
These points aside, the concept of the album comes across beautifully, and there are beautiful moments. Go and check out the video for Hi Life now and see what I mean.
Danish freak sonic collective Pinkunoizu arrive with their first long-player, Free Time!. Hailing from the excellent Full Time Hobby label and claiming to produce a mix of 60s Asian pop, nu-folklore and post-apocalyptic rock – this album will no doubt prick some ears.
After an initial tease with the aptly titled Peep Ep, Free Time! expands on genre morphing ideals to create a journey that, on paper, could be considered a fragmented mess. Pinkunoizu completely pull it off, effortlessly moving between styles to create a work that is strangely cohesive and a total intrigue.
The underwater sound of opener Time Is Like A Melody provides a gentle introduction, before blossoming into an electro-folk beauty reminiscent of guitar-era Animal Collective. Repetition and phonetic play create a transcendental atmosphere, before we take the first of many major shifts. The call to prayer of Myriad Pyramid sets an uncertain mood, as hushed vocals raise a backdrop of laser fuzz. Short, sweet and letting nothing slip of the epics to come.
A jarring steelpan/organ playoff on Everything Is Broken is less of an annoyance than it should be, despite clocking in at almost eight-minutes. The static breakdown that skips between radio stations is a playful touch, leading to siren-like vocals, proposing reflective comfort and the invitation to ‘settle down’.
Other standouts include the surf-edged country of Cyborg Manifesto – M.Ward style traditionalism supported by percussive layers and textured electronics create something altogether more poignant. Parabolic Delusions opens with all the balls of a summer anthem, before settling into a cross-genre mash-up. They draw a close in a slightly more sober light with the droning Death Is Not A Lover, before Somber Ground builds to a final free-jazz finale.
Pinkunoizu are clearly a band with ideas and Free Time! displays how disparate styles and influences can blend without steering too far off-track. This will be a new discovery for many that will flirt with the difficult to categorise. Here we will sit it proudly in the post-country, proto-electro-prog section.
It’s album number three for these wanderers of popʼs dreamscape and, first thing’s first, it is a belter. Previously a trio, Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Deheza have said their farewells to Alejandraʼs sister Claudia, and boy they work well in tandem. Curtis manages to make his chiming guitars and pushing synth productions meld spectacularly with Dehezaʼs enchanting, layered vocals.
Opener The Night sets the precedent here, where a simple guitar motif, along with an increasingly urgent rhythm and vocal backdrop, nudges, pokes and cajoles the song into near euphoria. The theme running through the album is that of a girl and the ghosts that inhabit her life. The ghosts here though are “Every love, hurt, betrayal and heartbreak you’ve ever had”. The songs all project the sense of these feelings following you around and the constant struggle to shake them off.
A lot of the orchestration here conjures up images of the 1979 cult film The Warriors. The feeling of being chased and a need to move forward, tempered by a claustrophobic ominous presence that lifts and drops at will. The vocals throughout the album are as much a part of the instrumentation as any of the hardware used, but they always maintain a personality and draw you into the lyrics. A case in point, and an album highlight, is Low Times. It’s a dark breathy rumbler that breaks down and then takes off again on the back of its terrifically simple and effective chorus line. Lovely.
The slower more inward tracks, such as Reappear, can sometimes slow up proceedings a little too much, but maybe that’s the point and they certainly don’t switch off your interest in seeing the story through to it’s conclusion.
Although School of Seven Bells are now travelling one member lighter, in Ghostory they have produced their most consolidated and substantial work to date. This album could well turn out to be a surprise treasure of the year.
Dusk draws in, the pedal steel wails gently and the stories of small towns, getting arrested, renting rooms and finding Jesus are told – are we due a new Richmond Fontaine record already? Actually this is The Hold Steady’s frontman Craig Finn going it alone with a host of impressive guests (members of White Denim, Phosphorescent, The Heartless Bastards), and he has nailed the clichéd Americana genre first time round.
The musician’s nasal tones suit the shift in sound, and at best, like on the soothing country swing of Balcony, his vocal delivery flows more than speaks, letting a melody ease into the soft sliding tune. Admittedly it’s followed by Not Much Left of Us, another pedal steel peddling piece of nostalgia – shame he didn’t write a song to go with it.
Finn has always had narrative in his writing – the lives of his characters told with a clever familiarity. But he normally has the Steady behind him, magnifying his words through big rocking and good time rolling. We stumble on the scent of the old days on tracks like No Future. Here the guitars are back on the distorted, rock setting, propelling Finn’s downbeat wordplay with more intent than anything else here could possibly muster.
Americana, alt-country, or whatever you want to call it, has been taken for granted too many times by those who think a touch of pedal steel and some brushed rhythms warrants a good track. Thankfully Finn does have a few genuinely good songs here – just not enough to make it a vital release.
We’ve waited on this release with bated breath after a refreshing EP and curious single from Diagrams. We were not disappointed – this playful album for dreamers is serious business – alternating between soft, emotional arrangements and bouncy syncopation.
These polar opposites effectively work together. My favourite track, the opener Ghost Lit, is reflective, softly masculine and gorgeously liquid. Despite the spacey feel it creates, there is so much going on that you don’t pick up on things until the second or third listen – like the strings, lazer-gun synths and texture creating percussion. On the flip side, Antelope is oddly adorable with horns, loads of rhythmic business going on and a rambling lead melody simultaneously infectious and hard to follow. Animals feels spiritual yet cheeky, using mechanised cricket noises and yet more percussion.
The lead vocal is almost always harmonised and duplicated to give a thick, calm yet authoritative tone. Call and response vocals give a sort of spiritual and otherworldly feeling. Irregular time signatures and foggy soundscapes give parts of the album a psychedelic, dreamer vibe, which fits really well with the warm vocal layering, drawing your focus further towards the voice. Sounding mainly like a band, it hits a perfect balance between guitars, orchestral instruments and electronic noise – each sound chosen and used exactly for purpose.
Black Light was confusing as the title track, with a much larger portion of it synthesised compared to the rest of the album and with less mystery – it’s much more of a pop track. Holding slightly less in its heart, we still loved it.
You’ll instantly notice that this record is only 22-minutes long. In a whirlwind you’d think 1960s garage record, and how their disposability made them the unparalleled objects they were back then.
Big Blue i starts off like tradition surf rock, though with some curious synthesiser elements. It’s a teasing introduction to what awaits you next. You think you’re being treated to a swirl of Fuzzbox and Abe Vigoda when the first 27-seconds of Clap rears into view. But it loses form, reverting back to the eerie-pop intro/chorus. It’s schizophrenic and you end up wanting to take home the fun “ooooh-ooooh-ooooh” bits and jilt the half-cocked crooning.
ESP is more like it. The prowess of the surf arrangement shows off to a useful effect and nearly engenders a tummy hop, especially at the synth-splattered wig out. The title track is like ESP. It’s terrific as a harmonised mini-masterpiece, complete with a spring-heeled duet.
When I first listened to Jubb I hated it. I didn’t know why. But then it hooks you on in later listens. As they say in trade, it’s a slow-burner and a bit of the bully when it wants to be.
Den of Love could either have been called Sea of Love or Earth Angel. I’ll let you draw your own conclusion to that observation. It’s a shame as the vocals hit you like a demented rivet gun.
Tosta Mista is a rare contemporary record. It lets itself down when the seams reveal themselves, but it’s red hot when Hooded Fang get down to playing. Garage pop doesn’t suit an unstructured vocal – what a singer says and how they say it has to tease out the passion from the music. This is what makes you bop. If Daniel Lee just mumbled throughout the seven tracks that have vocals, then this would get a straight ten. Musically Tosta Mista could be an antidote to the perils of a foreboding winter. Dancing keeps you warm after all.
It’s nearly Christmas, the time of year for endless Best Of releases and compilation albums that you’d rather use to line your hamster cage than find in your stocking. But, away from the likes of Michael Bublé’s Christmas we have Tunng. A very British folktronica band with a very non-traditional Christmas release, that features a collection of BBC radio sessions recorded over a period of five or so years. Thankfully it has some rather unexpected delights that make it a solid release from the group.
As you would undoubtedly expect, it’s a blissful mixture of warm, intricate sounds of the folk variety along with experimental clicks, blips and rhythms that seem to just transpose themselves effortlessly. From the sample heavy Bullets, back to basics Jenny Again, to their collaboration with Sahara desert masterminds Tinariwen on Tamatant Tilay (the true highlight). Tunng have here an album of live performances that, together with being of a high quality, shows a keenness for stepping out of the box and observing the world around them. Their cover of Bloc Party’s Pioneers for instance is interesting, if nothing else.
Having lost founding member Sam Genders after 2007 release Good Arrows, Mike Lindsay has demonstrated the versatile nature of Tunng within this release (he’s currently holed up in Iceland – recording his solo album with the local Husavik community under the guise of Cheek Mountain Thief). There is a planned release of new Tunng material next year, but until then this live collection displays the group’s talent at communicating their take on the musical landscape.
There’s something undeniably warm and welcoming about this debut EP from London’s Diagrams. It’s just so damn friendly you can’t help get caught up in its Pop-styled, oddly shaped sounds.
The five track record opens with ‘All Night All Night’, a track that beats like a heartbeat, showered with acoustic strums and open-air vocals – machinery ably backing up the song’s simple, yet infectious melody.
Other tracks are firmly under the influence of the synths – the warbling, off-beating ‘Hill’ jolts back and forth – it’s like a couple of Beta Band tracks played at the same time.
And the musicians (who are they? We have no idea) close on an acoustic ramble. ‘Icebreakers’ hops upon the Folk Train – thankfully the vocals tie the set together, ensuring whatever instruments are picked and played, the band maintain a continuity – of sorts at least.
Diagrams have given us five good reasons why they are a band to watch, and leave us with absolutely no idea on what might come next – which is a refreshing change.
Having re-released debut album ‘In the Court of Wrestling Let’s’ at the end of last year, Let’s Wrestle have enlisted the knowledgeable hand of Steve Albini for the follow up, ‘Nursing Home’.
For all intents and purposes there is little here to suggest the band have had any creative epiphanies. The album is packed with sub-three minute indie/pop/grunge tunes similar to the ones which featured on their debut, but Albini’s guidance is evident from the get-go as over-driven guitars jostle with fidgety drums and the low throbbing bass to provide a typically feral sound.
The disaffected sonic blasts of ‘In Dreams Part II’, ‘Dear John’ and ‘I Forgot’ show the record at its grungiest, as big, dumb chords are bashed out carelessly, harking back to the simpler, alternative musical landscape of the early 90s. It’s an often exhilarating and mercilessly catchy sound, complimented by Wesley Patrick Gonzalez’s plaintive vocals, pitched somewhere between disinterested punk and confused simpleton.
The album can rock but there are also moments of acoustic delicacy, such as ‘For My Mother’ and ‘I Am Useful’. These songs are about sensitive subject matter, and you can’t begrudge the band that. But their inclusion feels forced and grinds the album down to a moping halt, as if they have come to the party to break up the fun. Why would they want to do that?
But let’s not dwell on that. These occasional wet lettuces aside, ‘Nursing Home’ is a confident enough follow-up, cranking up the sunny, carefree indie-rock of its predecessor. -Jack Prescott-
Sometimes, as even Bowlegs knows, getting let go can be the best thing, really. For your bosses, for you, for everyone. The Leisure Society’s Nick Hemming might have feared the worst, though, recently. As provider of the scores to Shane Meadows’ ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ and former band-mate with the director and actor Paddy Considine, Hemming would have been forgiven for worrying about his erstwhile collaborator’s success. And then there’s the current dismantling of the British film industry, one of the few places, according to Hemming, where musicians can earn a bit of money.
Well, no fear. Film-score’s loss has been pop music’s magnificent gain. As the title of one of their songs has it, it might be better to be ‘…Written Off Than Written Down’. The melancholy sounds of the Society’s debut have dissipated, revealing a band getting into their stride and falling in love with the possibilities of their craft.
Their foundation remains the Ivor Novello-nominated Hemming’s songs, delivered with the panache of a quite vast musical collective (even in these post-Polyphonic Spree times) finding their (un)common groove. Songs like ‘You Could Keep Me Talking’ and ‘The Hungry Years’ build hypnotically, with their various rhythms and whirling fiddles reminiscent of the big music created by another generation of musical adventurers.
There’s a cliché about bands like The Leisure Society, that they try to give the listener three different styles, often within the space of the same song. Well, while the Society are as much magpies as anybody, that kind of try-hard madcap approach is the furthest from their intentions. The album has a beautiful mathematical correctness that justifies every diversion, from the intro to ‘A Phantom Life’ – that sounds like a colliery brass band – to the closing collision of banjo-plucked light country and vintage clarinet jazz. The band sees these things with admirable clarity in their murk. -James Milne-
Timber Timbre’s name refers to their early recordings made in a timber-framed cabin in the woods on the outskirts of Bobcaygeon, Ontario. The album’s title, ‘Creep on Creepin’ on’, gives a clue to the style of music within.
The first track, ‘Bad Ritual’, has an eerie quality, with plodding lyrics that draw the listener into a dark and mysterious world. Out of tune pianos and stirring organ sounds convey a haunting, almost threatening atmosphere, in the same vein as slow Elbow or Coral tracks.
Second track ‘Creep on Creepin’ on’ has a kind of Antony and the Johnsons whining vocal quality, with expansive, multiple layers of sound which possess a claustrophobic reverb and shadowy yet subtle delivery. This leaves a delayed reaction to the brooding, sinister content in ‘Swamp Magic’, which is an orchestral dystopia of twisted noise and tortured instruments.
There is a mixture of spoken word and strained vocals in ‘Black Water’, with a thumping gothic undercurrent and rattlesnake percussion, as if it were a film noir soundtrack with elements of blues, folk and pop.
This will not be to everyone’s taste, as some songs get a little repetitive. They often begin with an uncontrollable intensity but then fade out into a boring, bland drone of unintelligible noise, such as ‘Do I have Power’. ‘Woman’ is also such song: it carries on where ‘Swamp Magic’ finished, but the tempo suddenly slows and the vocal snaps the track into a barrage of messy confusion.
Despite this it is an original and atmospheric album of creepy folk/blues horror. Its hypnotic waves of sound are blended together to produce a magnetic piece of music, which makes you feel as if you’re being dragged head first into a dingy forest. CD
‘I Wish I Wish’ is the best Erland and the Carnival track Bowlegs has heard – the reason being it’s a band finding their own voice rather than ransacking the 60s archive (though lyrically it may still be lifted from an old poem).
It’s fair to say that album number two is an improvement on the group’s derivative debut. There is a new found energy and willingness to throw caution to the wind, tossing up new ideas in the process. So while opener ‘So Tired in the Morning’ may bare the marks of times gone by, it also crashes through the speakers with determination via its falling electrified chords.
‘Emmaline’ admittedly detracts from the forward thinking: it’s what The Coral would sound like if they started a Pink Floyd tribute band. Orkney man Erland Cooper has an effective delivery, yet such talents are wasted on textbook psychedelic chord progressions found in moments like ‘I’m Not Really here’.
The three-piece still like to base the songs around old poems and literature. ‘Dream of the Road’ also happens to be one of the oldest poems in written form. The song itself is an effectively atmospheric rambling, slowly trying to lift its head above the all too close darkness.
It seems that when the tempos are slowed, the tripping solos stifled and the psychedelics muffled we get closer to the band’s real persona. ‘Nothing Can Remain’ delivers such proof. So with a handful of good songs, diluted by a handful of dull, and often melodiously weak songs, we get glimmers of a band with a lot of ideas, even if half of them have been done before. DF
We love Fujiya & Miyagi here at Bowlegs. With their infectious brand of lo-key, white funk and electronica, they make records with a charm that only very few bands can pull off. Often cited as one of the most creative and outlandish groups of the UK music scene, their latest release is the outcome of a band pushing the limits of their signature sound. Methodical yet intimate, their inimitable style still remains but, interestingly, a new dimension features.
‘We wanted to make a record that was different from anything we had done before,’ says singer/guitarist David Best.
However, rather than any kind of radical musical departure, it’s the mood that feels different on this record. Best’s hushed vocals, full of sinister implication, combine with tense analogue synths to build a sense of paranoid foreboding which unleashes itself in the album’s penultimate track ‘Tinsel and Glitter’. All relentless, driving rhythms and oozing keyboards, this is a fine cut of kraut-influenced freak-out to zap our minds!
The other highlight also comes at the end of the album; the down-tempo ‘Universe’ signs off on a note of real gloom with its ghostly chants and accusatory lyrics – ‘You love the sound of your own voice, you are not the centre of the universe’. Unbuttoning their cuffs and rolling up their sleeves, Fujiya & Miyagi’s newly developed sound is a real force to be reckoned with.
And despite the tension, it’s still a hugely likeable listen and this is largely down to the band’s charisma. This is perhaps best illustrated on ’16 Shades of Black and Blue’, which swings from minimalist atmospherics to full on glam stomp with their articulate and deadpan delivery that we’ve come to know and love. It’s at this point that you realise that ‘Ventriloquizzing’ could be Fujiya & Miyagi’s best yet – which is no mean feat. JN
Often the most arresting music can be that which is immediate, instant, and full of the DIY attitude which makes you want to get your mates together and thrash it out in a dank garage on cheap equipment with plenty of fag breaks. London three-piece Let’s Wrestle have done just this. The only difference is that they have the songs while the rest of us drone on tunelessly thinking this pop-rock malarkey should be easier than it is.
Recently signed to the independent label Full Time Hobby, the band has re-issued their debut LP ‘In the Court of Wrestling, Let’s’. First time around the album received minimal exposure and, on listening, it’s baffling to see how this happened. Shame on you, General Public. Full of the wistful, knowingly ironic melodies which can be traced throughout a number of quintessentially English bands (The Beatles, The Kinks, Blur), Let’s Wrestle jam it all through the garage rock blender to create an album which is at once raucous and tender.
‘I’m In Love with Destruction’ switches from the guttural to exquisitely executed pop; ‘We Are the Men You’ll Grow to Love Soon’is infectiously defiant; ‘I Won’t Lie to You’ is a restless bop. There is little in the way of ostentation here. ‘It’s Not Going to Happen’ revels in the resignation its title suggests, while ‘Song For Old People’ sways and rolls shamelessly from one joyous chorus to the next.
The band occasionally eschews rushing headlong into the songs as the delicately wistful ‘In Dreams’ and the sorrowful drift of ‘My Schedule’ demonstrate. The latter is the album’s ‘Nowhere Man’; a painfully honest snapshot of a mundane day. The elephant in the room is the eponymous final track, a spiralling, feedback-laden descent through the doors of perception.
Often a joy to listen to, there is a great pop sensibility which runs throughout the whole album. The melodies are in safe hands; all you have to do is enjoy. JP
This is rather disappointing. School of Seven Bells have been one of the most beautiful, absorbing live bands Bowlegs has seen, but within the first minute of ‘Disconnect from Desire’s opening track ‘Windstorm’ the sense that the trio are mere pastiche merchants doesn’t so much creep up on us, as drop from the clear blue sky and crush us into the earth.
The problem is that the group’s carefully constructed, faultlessly recorded songs are so indebted to their shoegaze antecedents that it’s difficult to discern any personality in either Alejandra and Claudia Deheza’s vocals or lyrics, or Benjamin Curtis’ studio skills. The twin peaks overshadowing ‘Disconnect from Desire’ are the not-at-all obscure presences of My Bloody Valentine (the omnipotent ‘Loveless’) and Cocteau Twins (particularly the moment of clarity they achieved with ‘Four-Calendar Café’).
Although School of Seven Bells do introduce other, more unlikely colours to their palette – as with the tight ‘Miami Vice’ programming of ‘Dust Devil’ or the Eurodance riff of ‘Bye Bye Bye’ – these remain overwhelmed by the thick vapours of jetstream guitar and sighing vocal effects cribbed directly from the aforementioned albums.
It’s a shame, because ‘Disconnect from Desire’ is such a lush, vibrant piece of work that it feels almost churlish to flag up its lack of originality. ‘Babelonia’, with a multi-layered vocal chorus that would have made the fastidious Stereolab proud, is certainly finer than almost any post-MBV music of the past two decades; while the bouncy pulse of ‘Heart is Strange’ exhibits an unexpected appreciation of both Erasure’s ‘Love to Hate You’ and U2’s ‘New Year’s Day’.
Despite the above criticisms, School of Seven Bells are still highly recommended, both in concert and on this wonderfully pretty, almost three-dimensionally synaesthetic album. Whether they truly have any more to offer than this pitch perfect parody is yet to be proved, however. SH