Monthly Archives: September 2017

New (To Me!) Band of the Day: Britain

 

First things first: I count myself a massive Cocteau Twins fan.  So much so that when I read/hear bands compared sonically or otherwise with them, it’s met with a healthy skepticism.  Few, either during the contemporaneous rise of dream pop and shoegaze or during their more recent revivals, seem to match the visceral thrill, the desolate euphoria, gleaned from the original.  While I grew to like many of these bands over time it was in spite of, rather than due to, their supposed level of “Cocteausiness”.

Which leads me to Britain, the duo of Joey Cobb and Katie Drew that I recently stumbled across (thanks to an email blast from the good folks over at Heavenly).  They come bearing Cocteau comparisons – and it’s easy enough to see why on first listen to the demo for track, “Day by Day”:  the glistening guitar cascades, crisp drum machine patter, even an ending that sounds as though the song’s been suddenly unplugged – it’s all there.  Yet, in spite of my decidedly caveat emptor approach to such things, I was immediately swept up and carried off by “Day by Day”.

Much of this is down to Drew’s vocal performance, which matches not only the wispy end of Elizabeth Fraser’s delivery but, more importantly, its soulfulness.  So, yes, it does sound like the Cocteaus – but “Day by Day” is no mere pastiche.  The light and dark in the track’s woozy melody gives a feel like the reveal of sun through a slowly lifting fog.  It’s also incredibly fully-formed for a ‘demo’ – so hopefully, if included on their forthcoming debut, it won’t be messed with.  A second track, “Tried to Call”, can be heard by watching their “Stay Fresh” session over at theskinny.  Building from a similar 4AD building block, “Tried to Call” ratchets up the psych in a way that reminds of Lost Souls-era Doves (a band Britain name check as an influence in the corresponding interview).

Per the bio on fbook and the twitt, Britain are currently working on their debut, which will be released on Heavenly.  Stay tuned, and catch them out on tour with Jane Weaver this autumn in the UK (dates here).

Review: “Candle Power”, by Rat Columns

Rat Columns, Candle Power (Upset the Rhythm)

Rat Columns is the project of NYC-by way of Western Australia’s David West, whose previous work with bands such as Total Control, Rank/Xerox and Lace Curtain, as well as his solo material (most recently, last year’s great Peace or Love), explored different musical territory, from noirish post-punk, new wave imbued rhythmic explorations and dazed and confused psych.

Candle Power, his latest release with Rat Columns, finds West stitching together these various elements into a seamless and truly wondrous indie pop gem.  “Blinded by the Shadow” expands on the Hot Chip (and their 80s antecedents) stomp of Lace Curtain, burnished with the addition of backing vocals from bassist Amber Gempton (featured throughout) and the inspired use of violin to add texture.  “Northern Soul” weds the jittery, gothic post-punk of West’s work with Total Control and Rank/Xerox (I also kept hearing Lords of the New Church) with hazy psych.  The album is shot through with moments of sublime, pop bliss.  Opening one-two, “Someone Else’s Dream” and “She Loves the Rain”, jangled perfection in the spirit of classic Flying Nun on through to The Byrds. Closer, “Dream Tonight” a dancefloor ready mashup of New Order and Prefab Sprout (“Time’s No Vessel” also reminds of a less blissed-out Sprout with a shot of Orange Juice).

A dreamy, sepia-tinted melancholy hangs over the album, showcasing West’s ability to coalesce wide-eyed melodies with urbane, sometimes caustic lyrical takes on love and relationships, which are at variously “like driving a motorbike straight into a wall” (“Is This Really What You’re Like?”), an ephemeral, ‘did that really happen?’ experience (“Someone Else’s Dream”), and portentous “dark cloud that rains down from above” (“Time’s No Vessel”). It’s brilliant.

Candle Power is out now, on Upset the Rhythm.  You can follow along with all things David West on his bandcamp and fbook page.

Highlights include: “Someone Else’s Dream”, “Time’s No Vessel”, “Blinded by the Shadow”, “Dream Tonight”.