Jadu Heart, otherwise known as Bristol-based duo Alex Headford and Diva Jeffrey, have always been a bit of an elusive proposition. Last year’s debut album ‘Melt Away’ moved from trippy-pop one minute to experimental bedroom electronica the next, their sound as hard to pin down as the pair themselves, who preferred to hide behind their masked alter-egos, Dina and Faro.
On second album, ‘Hyper Romance’, it’s all change. The masks and monikers have been ditched for distorted guitars and delay peddles. The result is a very grungy take on the ecstasy and tragedy of falling in – and out – of love. Jadu Heart’s romantic vision is full of pagan imagery: the object of their affection a devil with “snakes in her hair”, rejecting heaven and dancing in the fire. ‘Dead Again’ is righteously emo – “I don’t want anybody else but I want feeling”, sings Jeffrey over thick, fuzzy layers of guitar. On the title track, the beep of a life support machine soundtracks a relationship that ends in lonely tears.
For the most part, Jadu Heart pull off their gothic rock renaissance. Heavy, amped-up riffing is smoothly interwoven with ethereal harmonies and their signature leftfield production on the electronic arpeggios of ‘Another Life’ and under-water vocals of ‘Day by Day’. The nonchalant swing of ‘Walk the Line’ and woozy acoustic number ‘Caroline’, meanwhile, provide a moment of catharsis amid the heart-stricken chaos, showing off the duo’s indie-pop pedigree.
At times, though, it feels like Jadu Heart are holding back. The sultry ‘Woman’ starts off well, with gritty sonics and Auto-Tune akin to VLF label mate and ‘U Never Call Me’ collaborator Mura Masa, but the closing guitar solo doesn’t quite channel the narrator’s torturous desire. Closing track ‘Pink and Blue’ also lacks sonic punch, tailing off an all-consuming romance without the necessary drama. Amidst all the psychedelic noise, Headford and Jeffrey’s voices sometimes fade away, their words mumbled and lyricism indecipherable.
However, when the witchy indie does work, it casts a transfixing spell. ‘Burning Hour’ is a standout – a shimmery grower that echoes the xx’s melancholy alt-soul. “Promise me you’ll make it up to me,” are the last words of a doomed lover engulfed by flames, Jadu Heart’s yearning vocals bouncing off each other as the song reaches its dramatic peak. Blair Witch Project meets prog-rock, it’s the apogee of ‘Hyper Romance’s bittersweet love story.
- Record label: VLF Records
- Release date: September 25