Wednesday, 28 August 2013
reviews: Volcano Choir, Múm, Alpha Male Tea Party
Volcano Choir - Unpave (****)
Emerging in For Emma…’s slipstream, Volcano Choir’s 2009 debut couldn’t help but be framed in relation to Justin Vernon’s other creative outlet. With its prominent electronics and poppier bent, Unmap was received in some quarters as Vernon’s Give Up, but any comparisons with the Death Cab/Postal Service dyad must surely expire with the arrival of Repave. Not only does Volcano Choir’s recorded output now match Bon Iver two-for-two, but the quality and clarity of these eight tracks makes it difficult to justify its relegation to the status of junior partner.
Credit is of course due to the band’s non-Vernon contingent (current and former members of Collections of Colonies of Bees), who wind back the glitches and deliver something more straightforwardly anthemic this time out – for instance, Acetate’s group-sung coda. But with his characteristic vocals front and centre, Vernon remains pivotal to the end result’s success; may his muse continue to be dual-fed for years to come.
Out 2nd September
Múm - Smilewound (****)
Six albums in, and Múm’s combination of live instrumentation, ethereal harmonies and digital fixings has birthed another cracker. Opener Toothwheels showcases their now-familiar trick of sounding sparse despite stuffing all manner of attractive bits and pieces into the mix, and they maintain this subtle balance throughout, filling their arrangements with bountiful nuances without rendering their songwriting a barrage of quirks.
There’s a satisfying tangibility to tracks like Sweet Impressions, in which robust drums contrast nicely with the brittle beats elsewhere, while Time to Scream and Shout demonstrates their undiminished way with an alt-lullaby. Then, as if to gild their emergent pop credentials, Smilewound closes with something guaranteed to bend ears outside the Icelandic band’s usual catchment: a Kylie collaboration that marries Miss Minogue’s breathy vocals to a soaring mix of tom rolls and string swells. Elegantly emotive, it warrants immediate entry into the upper tiers of both parties’ respective catalogues.
Out 2nd September
Alpha Male Tea Party - Real Ales and Modern Rail: A Lonely Man's Guide to Not Committing Suicide EP (***)
Applying choppy time signatures to millennial Britrock in the Hell Is for Heroes/Hundred Reasons vein, Alpha Male Tea Party satisfyingly expand upon the raw sounds of debut AMTP on this five-track follow-up. The slow-build post-rock of opener I Don’t Even Like Hollyoaks Anyway creates a strong if ultimately misleading first impression, it’s tuneful sweep downplaying the band’s heavier tendencies.
As it bleeds directly into Taste like Dog, the hefty riffs that are the Liverpool trio’s forte rear up, with erratic rhythms showcasing the band at their most ‘math.’ Also deserving mention is Go To the Ant, You Sluggard: more vocal-led than their usual fare, it’s the track most likely to enlarge their fan-base thanks to a sleekly accessible chorus.