As if they weren’t busy enough with their other projects, when Edinburgh-based Euan McMeeken (glacis, The Kays Lavelle) and Matthew Collings (Splintered Instruments, Sketches For Albinos) decided to team up as Graveyard Tapes for the first time in 2013, they served notice that they were an inspired partnership. Touching on Radiohead at their experimental and angst-ridden, the results gathered on ‘Our Sound Is Our Wound’ were a highlight of the year. Sensibly, the partnership was renewed last year, giving us ‘White Rooms’.
The album begins with an incongruous proposition. When faced with the image of a man singing “You raise me up” against a myriad of electronica and FX, It should be jarring. it’s actually rather thrilling with intense rhythms and guitar trails colliding beautifully with some genuinely heartfelt singing from McMeeken. One could almost say it was chart-worthy but for ‘Exit Ghosts’ the hand-wringing angst delves into more abstract territory as some gloomy keyboard motifs and drones lead to an inevitably doomed conclusion. Perhaps more attractive, though, is the stark ‘Sometimes The Sun Doesn’t Want To Be Photographed’ whose haunted piano and (what appears to be) sampled hordes of feet is both smart and bone-chilling.
Towards the middle of the record, there’s an even greater emphasis on experiments in noise, most notably for ‘Could You Really Kill?’ where the duo seem to be channelling the latter-day contributions of both Bauhaus and Scott Walker albums. Challenging and brave stuff indeed but it’s easier to be drawn to ‘The Secret Voices Of People’; a delicate, stripped-back song, arranged in the gothic simplicity of a This Mortal Coil cover. Special praise too for the finale, ‘I’m On Fire’, where McMeeken appears to be losing his grip on sanity; the skill here is that it’s not a last cry for life but more a subtle murmur as the victim seems resigned to his fate.
Many tracks were improvised with Ben Chatwin whose own releases under the name of Talvihorros are an indication of how harrowing this music could be. Balanced against this, though, are fragments of dark beauty to make ‘White Rooms’ as appealing as it is uncompromising.
Further Listening: Radiohead, Caught In The Wake Forever, Matthew Collings, Talvihorros, Hood, Eyeless In Gaza