If I am honest, I have found writing this review quite difficult. And I really don’t know why, as it is not that difficult to like this record very, very much indeed.
It has been a constant favourite for me now for the past few weeks, in direct competition, on my rotation of favourites, with Goldmund ‘Famous Places’ (see review below), Ulises Conti and the new Nils Frahm & Anne Müller record. As well as ‘I’ll Fight’ by Wilco, which appears to be lodged in my brain permanently at the moment. Never can get enough of Wilco though.
Anyways, Itunes describes this as “avant-garde”. I guess if you take that to mean forward thinking rather than “out there” then I can understand where they are coming from. But what is it that makes this record so good?
Well, for one thing there really is an awful lot going on with this record but what is so good, for me, is what it doesn’t say, as much as what it does. The songs do seem stripped of unneccessary instrumentation – basing most of the record around the piano, acoustic guitar, violin, glitch rhythms and sparse drumming. Take opening track ‘Toast To Famine’ for example. It takes a while to reach where it’s going, but all the while it builds interest on its journey and then, all too sudden, it’s over. But not to worry ‘Teethy’ kicks in quick smart and drives the record forward in some style. The vocals on this track, the way the male and female vocals combine, are just perfect.
‘Langvage’ doesn’t really appear to go anywhere fast, as is the case with much of this record, yet the atmosphere and tension built around the vocal line is superb. This, more than anything I can think of, sounds like a song constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed and it works well. In fact, much of this record has the deconstructed/reconstructed feel to it.
Then comes one of the album higlights ‘Lazarvs and Dives’. Piano and glitch rhythms combining with the wonderful interplay of the vocals building to the moment when full drums enter and lift the song to new heights. Brilliant.
‘Come Join The Sea’ is a beautiful piano lament complimented by lovely strings. Simple as that. Whilst ‘Attrition’ brings back in the electronic element with yet another excellent and memorable vocal melody leading the song forward.
‘The Day Bvrnt To Death’ is just stunning. The violin leading the way on this song. However, possibly the moment of the album comes when the vocals which, for the majority of the record, have been front and centre suddenly fade to the background with a solitary piano and eerie violin. It is a stunning end the song, and a wonderful bit of production and composition. ‘Widows’ is a wonderful mess. Whilst ‘Tongve of Callvs’ is driven forward by imaginative drumming.
In a similar manner to Ulises Conti, album closer ‘Slvumber’s Edit’ is a complete surprise. Vocals stripped away, making way for piano and soundscapes and ending the record in a memorable fashion. I like albums that do that. Memorable start. Memorable end. Fortunately, in this instance, brilliant in between also.
You know, without all the glitch rhythms, beats, field recordings and madness, this record could be very pop indeed. It really could be a polished affair but for me, in the process, it would lose much of what makes it so appealing.
The friend who introduced me to this record told me it was the most original thing he’d heard in ages. I’m not sure I totally agree with that. I think this is ground that has been trodden before. The Notwist, for example, are a band I would suggest have similar tendencies and style. However, I would highly recommend this record as it is more and more rewarding with each listen. Often what it doesn’t say being as important as what it does say. A great debut record. Do check out Wive here. Enjoy.