Archive for April, 2013

Review: Split Screens – Split Screens EP

As an indicator of what to expect from his first proper release, San Francisco’s Jesse Cafiero recently revealed some of his favourite records. Amongst Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and The Congos’ ‘Heart Of The Congos’, the biggest clue to what his own music sounds like would be Beck’s ‘Sea Change’; the record where the hitherto unflappable American finally revealed his heart on a beautifully sad and heartfelt set of songs. Cafiero has just five tracks at his disposal for his new Split Screens moniker but he certainly makes light work of emulating that record’s greatness, as well as drawing favourable comparisons to others.

Split Screens EP Cover

‘Born’ immediately evokes languid sunny afternoons via its relaxed ambient melody and soothing harmonies. It would be too dismissive to call it a Sea And The Cake pastiche but the track could have easily been made from the same session which produced their wonderful ‘Oui’ album. ‘When It Comes To You’, meanwhile, consists of little more than vocals and a reverb-soaked guitar and sounds simply serene. ‘Hovering’ adds to the air of rarefied romance as Cafiero seems to be remembering a lost love who is “still here in this room” but ‘Paying The Price’ casts a much darker cloud over the breezy atmosphere with Cafiero’s haunted tones and the inescapable feeling that the instruments are closing in on the listener; creating a claustrophobic effect. Infact, by the EP’s finale, ‘Deep Down’, it’s noticeable that the five tracks have taken on a steadily busier and more experimental path and it seems like you’ve been listening for a lot longer than twenty three minutes, which is a good thing in this case.

‘Split Screens EP’ is definitely one of those mini albums which leaves you thirsting for an album’s worth of material from the artist. From its crisp drums to its deceptive production – light and relaxed on the surface but characterised by great depth – Cafiero’s debut is something which Beck himself would be rather pleased with.

Web Sites:
Bandcamp Stream of Split Screens EP

Further Listening:
The Sea And Cake, The High Highs, Beck

Review: Unknown Component – Blood V. Electricity

After completing ten albums’ worth of material, one would reasonably expect a levelling out in quality. Thus far, Unknown Component’s Keith Lynch has kept his arrangements pretty subtle to prolong his reputation as a bedroom studio-style singer songwriter/producer; rather like an electronic version of Eels. His new album, however, represents something of a departure.

Unknown Component Album Cover

An ambitious production is the first factor which is striking about ‘Blood V. Electricity’. There’s an opening sequence of electronica and piano to usher in opener ‘Intuition’ (which remains a lush constant) but the reassuringly downbeat tones of Keith Lynch brings the listener back to reality. ‘Nowhere Is Alone’ consists of multiple instrumental layers but at its core is an insistent guitar rhythm and a chilling echo added to Lynch’s already haunted vocal whereas ‘Sensory Deprivation’ brings on a post-rock storm of guitars. The strident ‘Pendulum’ possesses a confidence that didn’t seem so possible after a decade of retreating in the margins and it’s an impression that is only emphasised by the similarly epic ‘For All Intents & Purposes’. Even ‘Painting The Weather’, perhaps the airiest track on here, is sumptuously arranged too.

There may be a bit more spit and polish than usual on this record but be reassured that the integrity and grittiness remain intact. Indeed, this could be an album which has the potential to elevate Lynch from indie underdog to a level of fame which seemed somewhat elusive before.

Web Sites:
Unknown Component Official Site
Soundcloud Stream

Further Listening:
Eels, State Shirt

Review: Avra – In Other People’s Eyes

Avra’s biographic details claim that the band formed after attending a Chameleons gig in 2002. This is certainly a promising indicator for the New Jersey band’s own take on the post-punk sound.

Avra Album Cover

The first three songs present a gothic and earnest start but do sound a little dated thanks largely to the lack of subtlety and space. It’s as Avra are trying a little too hard to impress. Light relief eventually arrives via ‘Cellophane’; the frontman apparently singing about ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ but the slower pace and less busy production result in a more inclusive experience. Another mid-paced track, ‘Reconcile’, brings in the strings but the group carry off the endeavour with some panache and from there, the confidence the band clearly possess is backed up with better arrangements. ‘Return’ and ‘Strap Discipline’ certainly tick all the right boxes for urgency and intensity whilst ‘In Other People’s Eyes’ is the closest the group get to achieving the melodramatic sound of their Mancunian heroes. They also save one of their best songs to the end, courtesy of the chiming, cascading melodies of ‘4am’.

‘In Other People’s Eyes’┬ádefinitely┬ádisplays the same self-belief and passion as The Chameleons but almost inevitably the band fall short of their status. No matter, it’s an album which stands up in its own right and has that rare quality of sounding better the further you get into it.

Web Sites:
Avra Official Site
Avra Bandcamp Page

Further Listening:
Hearts Fail, The Mission, The Chameleons