Friday, 15 April 2016

Silences - Luna EP review

Silences are a five-piece from Armagh who have steadily been building a fervent local following through a string of EPs, 'Luna' being the latest and, as I will cover, by far the most full-bodied.

While what undoubtedly grabs the attention for many are the softer acoustic numbers, this EP, bar the beatless and still gorgeous last track, shows off dynamics that should have fans begging for a full-length.

'There's a Wolf', as lead singer Conchur White revealed to Clash Music, was written three years before Silences was formed. Starting off with a juddering synth line and a soft acoustic guitar, it quickly pares back to just voice and axe. But those first few seconds signpost that this song has meat on the bones. Drums peek through the window and instruments are plugged in, before gang vocals emulate a wolf pack for a few bars and the melodic pattern is repeated with a few extra layers of instruments.
The actual melodic structure of the song is fairly simple and repetitive, but in three minutes the wolf stirs itself and finds its roar. A build and climax comparable to early-mid-period Radiohead.

'Breathless' would be a good description after that opening track. Some nice guitar lines, a synth and a drum machine bring you back down to earth. This track even boasts a surprisingly catchy chorus. "Honest, am I ever gonna make you honest, am I ever gonna leave you breathless?"
Even this eventually bursts open by the end into another cacophony. The band is really flexing its muscles here in a way that was merely hinted on previous EPs.

'Failing to Learn' starts off with a guitar part that in previous recordings would have been confined to acoustic, but here has a lovely XX glow, dripping in reverb. And then, again, around 45 seconds in, the band crashes back in through the window for awhile, before dropping back into the chilled verses, via a bit of ivory tinkling. Death Cab For Cutie has to be a reference here, partly due to Conchur's voice, but also the enhanced production values present here. This is in no way a bad thing. The chorus of  "If we are falling in love, we are..." is a nice hint at the title, I presume.

The EP ends on a calm note with 'Carve Me Open.' More typical of their work-to-date, although still with the guitar plugged in, it is a reminder that they aren't about to go metal any time soon. Nor should they. The 'Luna' EP is proof of the potential and versatility of Silences, and that you should perhaps see them in smaller venues while you can.

Friday, 1 April 2016

The Coral - Distance Inbetween

The Coral's debut album, all the way back in 2002, played out like the most rickety of pirate ships. The opening line was literally "We'll set sail again." Fourteen years on, and the pirate ship is now a spaceship.

'Connector' is the perfect primer for this journey into the unknown. It is a musical firing up of the engines, before 'White Bird' stretches the wings a bit (titles aren't just made up out of thin air!).

Both tracks have a somewhat kraut-rock grove to them, but with plenty of room for rich organ textures and golden harmonies, in particular 'White Bird.'

Once we get to 'Chasing The Tail Of A Dream', things ascend to another level. Liberal use of the tom-tom and a riff that borrows from Pink Floyd's 'Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun' set a mood that rumbles on and on, until the sort-of-chorus which repeats the title a couple of times and boasts a too-good-not-to-hear organ stab that transports you back to those days when Pink Floyd's magic was at full beam.

The title track brings us back to down to earth (well, the earth of another planet perhaps) and is a cool splash of water on the face after the intense opening trio. It could almost be a love song - "Through the veil I will catch you, I will come to your door."

Louder guitars and Beta Band harmonies return for the glam rocker 'Million Eyes'. "We are the patterns in the sky." Have I mentioned space yet? This is perhaps where the formula starts to wane slightly, although as if realising this, midway the instruments fall away in favour of whale noise and we float in the ether for a few seconds. That is before the grooviest of basslines makes an appearance and ushers in a rousing finale where new guitarist Paul Molloy steals the show.

Miss Fortune is perhaps the purest pop moment on the album. There are indie discos in space, as James proclaims "She's a mover" and "She twists and turns into the sun." Fry from Futurama would dance to this.

The happy vibes don't last too long fortunately, as 'Beyond The Sun' kicks off with "Do you feel like your mother's gone?" and you remember that this is an album based on real emotions, even if dressed up in more rhythmic Pink Floyd flourishes.

'It's You' could have been off the last Arctic Monkeys album, and I mean one of those dreamy mid-section tracks, not the machismo of the singles. We all love a comparison, so let's throw the last Mystery Jets album into the mix too.

'Holy Revelation' is probably the closest The Coral will get to gospel rock. How it still sounds amazing is beyond me. I could be converted to anything with lead guitar like on this song. Fun fact - Paul Molloy was in The Zutons. Have I possibly misjudged them?

'She Runs The River', is almost a skeletal reprisal of the album's opening salvo. Almost beat-less, we are get a few more nice harmonies and a general sense of foreboding.

The band comes roaring back for 'Fear Machine' - another hint that Arctic Monkeys might not have been far from the studio playlists. If I'm being honest, I'd have preferred 'She Runs The River' as a closer, this doesn't do the album justice (End Credits is exactly as you'd expect, more of a full stop to the album's sentence than an actual song).

In general, this is well worth a listen if you like any kind of guitar music, or have liked The Coral in the past. Where they go from here is anyone's guess. The lack of acoustic tracks is something they may remedy on the next album, although as an entire piece this hangs together perfectly. Must-buy!