In many ways Fifteen, and indeed SPC ECO’s music in general, seems like the latest chapter in an ongoing story, one that was only ever aimed at a more discerning, left-field and underground audience. Whilst many are familiar with where the story line jumps off, a swirl of experiments and musical visionaries embracing new and strange technologies to make new, wholly original music released on small, independent record labels a generation ago, far fewer have kept up with the plot line as the story has moved on. And that is a shame as, perhaps unexpectedly, as those characters in the story have grown up they have become more interesting, more creative, more exploratory rather than less so.
Dean Garcia’s post and parallel Curve career is a CV which demonstrably shows that he has never been someone to rest on his laurels and coast on past achievements. Bands such as The Secret Meeting and more recently SPC ECO prove that he hasn’t lost his sense of musical intrigue, always moving forward as he wanders new and less well trodden sonic landscapes. Volker, the second album from his intriguing collaboration with Polish musical protagonist and multi-instrumentalist/producer/composer Jarek Leskiewicz, sees the pair of them heading into hazy, post-rock minimalism and the quieter echos of shoegazery to wonderful effect.
It is an album which drifts as much as it pulses, skitters as much as it beats, is shrouded in gloom and glitch, in pause and effect and there is a restrained and smoke-like beauty to the music it contains. But this minimalism is in constant flux and flow with more robust and well-rounded sounds and it is this dynamic which creates the charm of the album as it drops down into near silence, reaches for noisy crescendos and explores every combination in between.
Night Crawlers is as tense and scratchy as its name suggests, Is This It wanders between clinical beats and a wall of cavernous industrial noise forged into a melody which seems just outside the range of human senses and Starry Eyes draws a line between the then and now of alternative synth music. And all the time the vocals seem to lurk below the music playing an instrumental rather than a communicative role.
Blurred City Lights is helping to add a wonderful new genre to the modern musical canon, one that sits between post-punk dream scapes and modern ambient pop, between post-rock excess and cinematic delicacy. It revels in space and a whole new and evolving sound palette which doesn’t seek to conform and in not doing so is being picked up by a whole new alternative pop and indie audience.
Preconceptions will always let you down. After all, a band made up of a dad and daughter just smacks of working men’s club acts and pub duos doesn’t it? Well, not when the dad is Dean Garcia, better known as one half of Curve and certainly not when daughter, Rose Berlin, has a voice, which sounds as evocative as this. Billy Ray and Miley this ain’t!
Under My Skin feels more like a collection of moods than music, of wistful reflections made into sound, of heart-breaking emotion, of barely tangible but emotively powerful expressions of love and loss and life. It feels like the ghosts of sounds that hang in the air when the music itself has been erased before itself being lost to the breeze. Garcia’s track record in crafting such ephemeral statements is well documented but the duo’s strength is borne out of more than just a musical connection.
“There was a truly emotional earthquake between Rose and myself due to a personal ongoing issue, which left us both scarred and in tears,” explains Dean Garcia. “One hour later to mend us both, I asked her if she would like to sing on the sad piano song again and she sang what you hear on the track. Driven to tears once again, but for the polar opposite reasons, this song is the epitome of the unquestionable love and bond that only occurs between family.”
Music is made for many reasons and using many tools and inspirations but it takes a bond this close, this raw, this loving, this primal, to truly make music that resonates this deeply.