Tuesday, 23 July 2013

reviews: Sam Thomas, Laki Mera, Surf City

                                                 Sam Thomas – Blind Theatre

Sam Thomas - Blind Theatre (****)

On the cover of Blind Theatre, a young boy fashions spaceships from boxes and bottles while behind, a full-size shuttle blasts itself skywards. It’s not the most nuanced of images, but it’s apt for an album that soars with ambition whilst still conveying a palpable sense of childlike curiosity.

Twenty-five-year-old composer and gifted multi-instrumentalist Sam Thomas weds rocks both post and prog, with epic, goosebump-raising soundscapes rubbing shoulders with flights of flamboyant extravagance. Sometimes, both traits co-exist within a single track, as evidenced by opener Gift’s journey from dappled guitar ripples and sci-fi vocal snippets, through cinematic strings and crunchy, Matt Bellamy-ish distortion, to a grandiose finale straight out of a seventies rock opera – all in the space of three and a half minutes. The rest is less capricious, but no less intriguing, with Lanterns’ mountainous conclusion and Temples’ slow-burn vistas giving a clear picture of Thomas’s potential.

Out now

                                                  Laki Mera – Turn All Memory to White Noise

Laki Mera - Turn All Memory to White Noise (***)

Laki Mera’s second album (third if you count 2008’s Clutter, which the band apparently doesn’t for whatever reason) emerges in the wake of two significant changes: drummer Tim Harbinson’s decision to quit the band early in the writing process, followed by the dissolution of a nine-year relationship between core members Andrea Gobbi and Laura Donnelly.

Both schisms are felt in the resulting work; the former in the prevalence of processed beats, the latter in Donnelly’s lyrics, which by her own admission are punctuated with oblique references to the split, but neither’s mark is negative, with the band’s pristine aesthetic of electronic lullabies and nocturnal sophisti-pop benefitting, if anything, form a bit of added frisson. The album’s length is a hindrance, however, with a scattering of repetition and the occasional listless stretch. Nonetheless, tracks like Come Alone offer sufficient riches to forgive it its excesses and focus instead on its clarity and poise.

Out now

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Surf City - We Knew It Was Not Going to Be Like This (***)

Following a fairly lengthy hiatus, New Zealand’s Surf City pick up more or less where they left off on 2010’s Kudos. Luckily, said debut inhabited a rich-enough milieu to warrant a full-length revisit, with We Knew It Was Not Going to be Like This offering nine more confidently assembled slices of chilled-out guitar-pop laced with sprawling nods to psychedelic space-rock.

They’re at their most immediately satisfying when they err towards the simpler end of their spectrum (see: I Want You’s big dumb chorus; It’s A Common Life’s fuzzed-up canter; NYC’s tribute to Pavement), but it’s the less direct pieces that sustain interest on repeat listens. From the sixties-evoking vocal effects and guitar wig-outs of Oceanic Graphs of the Wilderness to the lackadaisical, rolling repetition of closer What Gets Me By, it’s their willingness to kick loose and see where things end up that save them from accusations of throwaway retroism.

Out 19th August

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