This Netherlands collective marry their Bad Seeds / Velvets Influence with a certain tendency to Godspeed dynamics with just a soupcon of proggyness. Some of it works quite well, some bits don’t. In fact I can pinpoint the good moments. It’s the bits that don’t involve the vocalist.
The first track, ” A Maternal Ear” is a gradual piece of Slinty (does everything have to sound like Slint these days?) guitar work before the vocalist comes in and imparts his dire warnings to his lover (I think) where he’s “trying to make it right”. It’s mannered, pained and the vocals maintain that approach for the duration of the album.
Their acknowledged folk influences come to the fore with the second track “Nipple of the World” which feature a male/female duet especially reminiscent of Harvey/ Cave’s (in)famous work together combined with the use of an organ which brought to mind the much-missed Furniture. Shame about the silly title though, as the track spirals to a neat squalling guitar solo with the band going hell-for-leather before collapsing into “Echoes” style sonics. At fifteen minutes, I can imagine it being an absolute stormer live.
“Hats off to Harm Wierda” is a short noisy instrumental that doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, but that’s not a bad thing, but it could be more engaging.
“G-Mineur Sext” is an organ driven piece that is just lightly marred by some vaudevillian vocals that don’t quite chime with the ferocity of the track. Otherwise, the playing is top-notch.
“13th Baklat Cycle” starts off on a Radiohead trip and doesn’t really go anywhere-again. It doesn’t add much to the album, or really showcase a side of the band that ‘s not been heard previously on this long-player.
“The Isle of Groix” is laden with portent, mentions are made of “trysts with the dead”, a mournful harmonica blows , more gloomy 6th form-lyricism is delivered as the tune gradually makes its funereal way along until the band get the vocalist to belt up and get on with that patented post-rock surge-y bit we all know so well. It’s not bad. Then the vocalist struggles free and we’re back with the bloody harmonicas and sub-Curtis profundity.
To finish it off we’ve got the (try not to laugh) track “God Is An Audience Too Divine To Clap”. You may have forgiven Pete Murphy for a title like this back in the day, but when it’s married to an arrangement that is neither divine, nor makes you want to clap, then despite the spirited playing, you just sort of shrug to yourself. Then it ends.
There’s a lot to musically respect with this album, but it’s the sound of a band not escaping their influences, or creating something new out of them. If I’d never heard Joy Division / Godspeed or even Strangelove I may be impressed with this, but to older ears, to be in thrall to your heroes and not move out of their shadow just makes for a so-so listen. No-one wants a so-so listen these days.
Note – you can stream all of the band’s discography via their Bandcamp page.