Female drumming duo Rattle share their eponymous debut, American rockers Of Montreal present Innocence Reaches and Swedish group The Amazing celebrate their fifth record, Ambulance. We round up the best of this week’s CD releases.
Rattle — Rattle
Rattle first stare down conformity before laughing into its grovelling face. Drum duo Katharine Eira Brown and Theresa Wrigley fleetingly pondered tethering guitars to their side-project-gone-wild, before clouting that idea on the head as determinedly as they pound their kits on the more dissonant parts of this accomplished debut album.
The Nottingham pair sidles up close to the chatter of their kits to settle on often sparse, sometimes frantic, typically tangled and always mesmerising rhythms, drawing on free-form jazz and post-punk traction to forge a distinctive identity.
Vocals are sparingly and neatly interwoven with hypnotic percussion. Amid the cowbell and vibraslap-fuelled stalking of Stringer Bell — Rattle’s highlight — quizzical lyrics dance around an urgent tempo that takes off as though aflame and spreading.
The sum of its parts defines this record as challenging. The reward for accepting the challenge is immense.
Of Montreal — Innocence Reaches
Of Montreal — who aren’t actually from Montreal, but Athens, Georgia — are showcasing their 14th album in 19 years; a testament to both the work rate and creativity of enigmatic frontman and founder Kevin Barnes.
Described as psychedelic, experimental, glam rock, and even folk rock, the band are boundary-pushers; merging genres and culture into an often whimsical, funky tune, but there is a lyrical antithesis to their work.
Barnes draws from personal experiences of love, friendship, drugs and death, to create songs that are poignant and parabolic.
They critique life and our experiences within it; the decisions we make, the attitudes we display, and the behaviour we tolerate.
The contradiction between the music and lyrics is artfully ironic and deserving of greater recognition. First single, It’s Different For Girls is toned down enough to hook people who might be otherwise put off by the band’s weird and wonderful nature.
The Depeche Mode-esque opener Let’s Relate and My Fair Lady are highlights. This is not Of Montreal’s best, nor is it the place to start with them, but after this many albums, it’s less about the album and more about expanding horizons.
The Amazing — Ambulance
They don’t have the eccentric (but commercial) kick or peculiar swoonsome-ness of their better known Swedish compatriots, Robyn and Lykki Li, but Swedish five-piece The Amazing are certainly intriguing.
Although frontman Christoffer Gunrup does seem intent on pushing his luck, being deliberately mysterious and going so far as to not take part in any kind of publicity and refusing to publish or explain his lyrics. So far, so prickly.
Ambulance, the band’s fourth record, however, is not so spiky. In fact, it’s languorous, gentle and thoughtful, with long tracks spooling into one another.
Through City Lights undulates and arcs with folky resonance; the largely instrumental Tracks builds, the slow burn of it catching you unawares — not that a real chorus ever emerges — while Blair Drager adds a harsher, bleaker note.
The problem is, if you set out to be an enigma, you can only hope to fail, it’s not something to be faked. A bit more clarity, a bit less bluster and The Amazing really would be just that.
A Grave With No Name — Wooden Mask
Wooden Mask is atmospheric; partly due to the reverberating guitars that permeate the entire production, and partly to the figurative titles of each song. The album starts out in a blacksmiths, with the sound of hammers clashing on anvils. Then, grungy guitars envelope Alexander Shields’ reedy, overdubbed vocals that tonally resemble Kevin Parker of Tame Impala.
Wooden Mask is counterpointed by an elegiac longing instead of psychedelia. The music is sedate and deliberate — music to meander down a misty valley on a longboat to. Storm hits 6 on the Beaufort scale, but falls just short of the catharsis you might hope for.
Pirouette is lyrically the strongest, in the classic, “I may be dancing, but I’m actually very sad” mould.
One or two songs sound like instruments tuning, but these serve to preface the album’s most impressive musical moments. Wooden Mask is compelling, glacial and evocative, but lacking any explosive release.
Elias Krantz — Lifelines
Elias Krantz’s new album Lifelines is held together by driving rhythms; without them the album’s two tracks, Patchwork and On Time, would, simply put, fall apart. Krantz’s decision to congeal the music into just two entities is brave, even admirable. He wages a valiant war against the current era of shortened attention spans limiting the imagination.
However, his effort to engage our full concentration in one lengthy experience falls flat.
There are complex, exuberant segments that give way with some grace to more minimalistic melodies, but these changes in intricacy simply serve to throw the listener off balance.
Just as your attention is absorbed by one section and you find yourself imagining scenarios that fit the soundscape, than it undergoes a dramatic shift.
The use of retro technology, such as analogue synthesizers and various tape recorders lend a sense of timelessness, but while the elements of the album’s production are a triumph, the overall changes in fullness mar what could have been a truly engaging creation.