I don’t know how Scandinavian countries do it, but they seem to be producing artists that, not only have something that is emotionally engaging and entertaining, but also have the musicality to bring these sounds to life in a way that audiences from other countries can relate to. Having a voice as crisp and clear as a Scandinavian stream doesn’t harm your chances of appealing to a wider audience either and this is what Norwegian singer Anne Marie Almedal has.
Imagine if The Cult had, instead of embracing foot on the monitor, leather clad rock, gone down a more 4AD inspire route around album three. Imagine if Echo and The Bunnymen had been inspired by Kate Bush rather than their retro-American influences. Imagine if The Church had opted for a shoegaze infused sound rather than the iconic 12-string jangle. All strange and hypothetical scenarios, but all ones that go some way to describe the glorious sound that Crooked Ghost make on this, their second album. I guess it is only journalists flailing for a handle who conjure such ridiculous images but it says a lot about a band when you need to resort to such extremes. Although, I must admit, it is also a fun thing to do.
Anything that puts me in mind of All About Eve is going to be good with me. That may be a lazy way to start talking about Eve Vine’s fine new single but it does come swathed in similar psychedelic meets gothic textures, the same translucent beauty, the same sonic elegance. But whereas Julianne Reagan and the crew quickly headed out into more pastel and Pre-Raphaelite territory, Evi Vine stays closer to the swirling dark riches that AAE’s early demos marked them out for.
Beauty in Chaos is a strange and intriguing prospect and like anything deserving of such a description is hard to easily pin down. Too fleeting to be a supergroup, more organic than merely a curated project, too original and forward thinking to be merely a rose-spectacled look at the past…it skips fleetingly past all those ideas, echoing all but committing to none. Personally it feels as if someone has snuck in to my house, rummaged through my vinyl collection to see what I like and brought a large selection of those bands and artists together to make an album just for me. They even put everything back in the right place afterwards.
At the heart of this exquisite album is guitarist and keyboardist Michael Ciravolo who managed to gather together an impressive roster of guest artists to appear as co-writers, performers and often both. The result is an album rooted in Ciravolo’s textured creations and then flavoured by the artists he brings to teach song, thus creating new music that sounds like long forgotten favourites, songs echoing signature sounds whilst wandering new paths and new potential. And whilst the list of the great and good who feature here dictate that there is an obvious, ready made market, it has to be stressed that Finding Beauty in Chaos rings with as much originality as those artists did in the first place.
But you can’t ignore the appeal of the album to existing post-punks, goths and alt-rockers, just look at the bands that this connects with, The Mission, The Cure, King’s X, Gene Loves Jezebel, even Ministry and Cheap Trick plus many more. The overall sound tends to revel in cinematic soundscaping, lush textures and brooding sonics but often these are shot through with jagged sonics and raw, razor wire guitars. There are occasional meanders into more extreme territory such as Al Jourgensen giving 20th Century Boy an industrial make-over on the album’s only cover but more representative is the Wayne Hussey and Simon Gallup performance on Man of Faith or Evi Vine’s hushed vocals on the ethereal I Will Follow.
With so many combinations and shifting personnel, it is an album that delivers much, the perfect combination of the right amount of musical cohesiveness and enough room to let the individual musical personalities take centre stage. It would be easy to make such an album feel like a flash back to the past, instead Beauty in Chaos is a glimpse of a future that never was and for those tantalising dreams, I give my thanks.
The King in Mirrors should definitely win the “sticking to your guns” local music award. Long after many of their peers have either given up on music or have morphed into cover bands, Rich May is still creating sounds inspired by the bands that got him excited about music in the first place. And the result of resolutely sticking with the plan is that they have an e.p. Little Voices, being released by Take A Nap Records even as we speak.
Just as with his last band, Baby Train, Rich knows what he wants the band to be about and the fickle hand of fashion and hipsterish “now-ness” is the last thing on his mind. That said, King in Mirrors is no nostalgic pastiche, no stuck in the past homage to his teenage record collection and although it is easy to see where his influences lie, Go-Betweens, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cure, Orange Juice and all of that post-punk, underground pop, this is the sound of that scene not merely resurrected but moving forward into a bright and productive future.
Great pop hooks intertwine with an understated rock urgency and remind us that it is at the counterpoint of the two genres that some of the best music is made, mixing the credibility of the latter with the infectiousness and danceability of the former.
Pre-release teasers for the e.p. have been testing the market and I have to say that the title track alone easily lives up to their previous high point, Rolling in The Sun, hinting that Little Voices will be nothing short of an alt-pop master class brimming with groove and accessibility.