The best whispery, summer-feeling space-folk album of the year? Shhh. We won't tell if you won't...
Once it was all pallid complexions, bread ‘n’ butter space-folk and shuffling semi-apologetic folk gigs round ‘ere. Now, if not quite AC/DC, ‘Ether Song’ finds the duo flushed with confidence boosted by an almighty dollop of deep-fried innovation.
What happened to these twee indie folk surely destined for third on the bill at a Belle & Sebastian love-in? Well, the sheer unarguable quality of a debut that catapulted them from pub gigs to rocking (albeit gently) 1,000s of rabid fans at V2002 for a start. ‘Ether Song’ finds the transformation to quiet stardom complete. This is an album birthed in LA after all, lending it a far broader vision than the debut.
‘Panic Attack’, for example, finds Olly Knight and Gale Paradganian brazenly nuzzling the sodden beard of prog. It has lots of strange “wo-wo-wo” noises and ridiculously pretentious lyrics (“bye bye baby/burning eyes of demise”, hmmmm) and is quite wonderful. As is ‘Falling Down’, a folksome fancy snoozing under layers of Mellotron that’s so summery it’ll give you a tan. And though Knight’s wobblesome, nasal vocals occasionally buckle under the weight of their self-imposed Buckley-isms in the context of an album of hushed loveliness this is practically an irrelevance.
Bathed in shimmering beauty, each of the twelve tracks is drenched with ambiguity. To dismiss the ‘Brakes as empty vessels, however, would be to Miss The Point. For ‘Ether Song’ is, beautifully and brilliantly, a blank canvas. It demands interpretation and subjectivity. It works in the same way that Doves‘ ‘Lost Souls’ did; that is, by inviting us to bed down in its sumptuously familiar lyrical folds while offering us a warm mug of Something A Bit Different.
So, where ‘Full of Stars’ fiddles shyly under a blanket of pastoral vagueness (“under the leaves she lies”) it also bursts with the dark pop nous of Grandaddy. And while the odd cosmic synth wurble will keep the Aphex Twin from the door, ultimately, the combination of keening guitars, meaningful silences and deliciously unresolved universal sentiments could shatter the heart of the meanest boulder.
The best whispery, summer-feeling space-folk album of the year? Shhh. We won’t tell if you won’t…