London King’s Cross Crossbar

Sad, soulful melodies like [B]'Surfing'[/B] are systematically shredded by bursts of scattershot drum'n'bass or sheets of crackling static...

These are strange days for Luke Sutherland. Misunderstood, or simply ignored, for most of the decade as part of art-rock weirdos [a]Long Fin Killie[/a], he now finds his debut novel Jelly Roll shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize, while with his new band, Bows, he’s set to be the star turn at the miserablists’ last dance.

Frustration does strange things to the mind. With Bows, Sutherland‘s frustration at years of dead ends has manifested itself as a dark, brooding deadlock of edgy, dissonant noise and gentle washes of tripped-out gothic psychedelia. He stands centre stage, sporadically wracked with emotion, jerking like he’s been electrocuted and driving wicked shards of guitar noise through pristine John Barry-esque moodscapes like ‘Sleepyhead’ while demure, Danish singer Signe Hxirup Wille-Jxrgensen provides a cool, static foil.

Everything about Bows seems to revolve around this dichotomy: sad, soulful melodies like ‘Surfing’ are systematically shredded by bursts of scattershot drum’n’bass or sheets of crackling static, but while it’s occasionally frustrating being wrenched from some sweeping Portishead-like reverie, there’s none of the creeping complacency that sucks so much mood music dry.

Frustration can muddle the mind as well as focus it, and on songs like ‘Britannia’, Bows lose all sense of cohesion, wandering ponderously through a fog of complex atmospheric textures, failing to heed the warning of Tricky‘s more recent follies. Such discordance serves a purpose though, throwing the ominous ‘Big Wings’ into sharper profile, Signe‘s haunted, half-whispered words swathed in a baroque wash of strings and brass, like some funk-wise update of Dead Can Dance‘s medieval gothic.

Driven by dissatisfaction Luke Sutherland may be, but such listlessness has created some moments of almost perfect musical fusion on Bows‘ debut album, ‘Blush’, drawing on everything from avant-garde composer Steve Reich to the introspective pop of The The. In truth, it’s music not best shared, but as the result of one man’s quest for something seemingly forever just beyond his reach, it’s a prize worth savouring.

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