If Liverpool is known for producing bands with the ability to produce exquisite music whilst not taking themselves too seriously from The Beatles to The Coral then Big Tide’s first single from the forthcoming Sync or Swim (you see what they did there?) album is the perfect continuation of that tradition. Musically it fits on to a timeline of influence that runs from the original Byrdsian jangle pop through the bands who reinvented it on the west coast in the 80’s as the Paisley Underground scene, their English contemporaries such as The Icicle Works and on to more recent champions of the sound such as Guided by Voices.
It’s a testament to modern technology that an artist in America can collaborate with a record label in England to make an album without ever having been in the same room as each other, but this is just what Jen Olive and Andy Partridge have managed to do. After contacting Partridge’s Ape House label about working her demo recordings up into a finished album, and three years of cross-Atlantic communication, the result is Warm Robot, possibly the first ever Albuquerque-Swindon collaboration in the history of music, and what a charmer it is too.
The core sound is one of dexterous and quite hypnotic finger picking guitar and a voice that is both crystal clear and slightly quirky, putting you in mind of what Bjork might sound like if she stopped trying so hard to be weird. But all credit to the production and arrangements on the album too, and when all elements are combined the result becomes much more than just another girl with a guitar.
The songs manage to neatly meander between pop, anti-folk and a sort of modern take on the psychedelic folk troubadours of the hippy era. It also sports a wonderful vibrant math-pop groove, often built as much from the melodies as the beats and one that pushes the overall sound into a slightly futuristic place. Because of this the album seems to stand proud with one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
Amongst these very personal songs are some masterstrokes of song writing, Boulevard is infectiously chilled, Claustrophobe encapsulates all of the atmosphere that it’s name suggests, Querquehouse is overtly retro in nature and Franscrams! is a strange, spiralling hybrid of tribal sounds and off-beat charm.
On paper such a long distance collaboration between musicians could have resulted in something unfocused and forced together but despite this detached way of working, or possibly because of it, the result is a truly unique sounding set of songs.