“Is it real? Is it real?” asks Luciel Brown throughout this potent follow up to the thrilling debut “Fictional Decision” by Leeds-based trio Drahla – PopLib’s essential song of 2016.
The song is due for release in April on the Too Pure label’s singles club. Coruscating bass sets a platform for a typically cool and mysterious sing-speak stream-of-consciousness artful wordiness.
The song builds through dense layers of sonic energy as guitars buzz and menace before pulling back, introducing saxophone – some of the best wild skronking saxophone since The Stooges “1970” from their “Funhouse” album in fact – and then re-calibrating the volume for climactic ending.
It all adds up to a powerful statement and the fulfilling experience of a song merging elements of post-punk with art pop and noise rock and leaving some mystery and intrigue in its trail of beautifully dissonant noise.
The only band I can think of who may have been within striking distance of what Drahla are doing right now was Sonic Youth at the absolute apex of their dark abrasive melodic cool, around the time of their 1987 album “Sister”.
I love the random acts of discovery that come via Bandcamp and people doing the simple act of sharing a link to something new. Sometimes what you hear invades your brain so quickly and completely that resistance is futile and you click ‘buy’and pay more than the asking price just because it is that good. Like Drahla and “Fictional Decision”:
It’s a simple idea. Bass, drums, voice and that quiet/loud dynamic we are familiar with from Pixies songs. Part spoken/ part sung/ part chanted words and phrases that are strange, mysterious, threatening (and also as artfully abstract as cut-up Broadcast song lyrics), are a familiar concept to minds perverted by years of the free-form imagination of Mark E Smith in The Fall.
But on this song by Leeds based trio Drahla these components – familiar concepts from post-punk and noise rock – are assembled and delivered in a way that allows them to take on new life and provide an an electric shock.
Maybe it’s the way that when the guitar comes in LOUD it’s just a blazing storm of dissonance and beautiful abstract fury. Maybe it’s the way that bassist/ guitarist and vocalist Luciel Brown maintains an air of indifference to the setting in which her incantations are delivered. Classic tension and release.
Either way, I’ve played this a dozen times tonight and all I can conclude is that I’ll be playing it another dozen times tomorrow… and after that as well.
Postscript: There’s a wonderful lo-fi synthpop/ artpop split release with Swords from a year ago which has two songs from Drahla. “Stereo Maze” gave me flashbacks to an old Amos & Sara cassette tape from a long time ago. The post-punk art-pop spirit is clearly strong in this band.
And then there is this enigmatic “teaser” for something I’d love to hear more from:
‘Proteus’ by Astro Children
This is not a best of 2013 list, just the albums I played and enjoyed the most in 2013. As is the custom in such lists I have ranked these in order which more or less means the closer to 1 they are the more I played and enjoyed them. Simple…
There is no science in this. Nor is there any particular claim to artistic merit, but feel free to read whatever you want into the rankings (and omissions) – it’s more fun that way!
(If I’ve written something here about the album during the year there will be a link to that.)
So… PopLib’s Top 10 Favourite Albums of 2013 were:
10 – Inside a Replica City – Strange Harvest (self-released) https://poplibnz.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/amnesia-by-strange-harvest/
9 – Pearl Mystic by Hookworms (Gringo Records)
8 – A Pebble & A Paper Crane by Kane Strang (self-released) https://poplibnz.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/a-pebble-a-paper-crane-by-kane-strang/
7 – Plumes by Ginnels (Tenorio Cotobade) https://poplibnz.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/plumes-by-ginnels/
6 – Tumult in Clouds by Ela Orleans (Clandestine) https://poplibnz.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/tumult-in-clouds-by-ela-orleans/
5 – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas by Courtney Barnett (Milk!) https://poplibnz.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/avant-gardener-by-courtney-barnett/
4 – Slow Summits by The Pastels (Domino) https://poplibnz.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/slow-summits-by-the-pastels/
3 – Waiting for Something to Happen by Veronica Falls (Slumberland/ Bella Union)
2 – II by Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Jagjaguwar) https://poplibnz.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/unknown-mortal-orchestra-ii/
1 – Proteus by Astro Children (Muzai Records) https://poplibnz.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/proteus-by-astro-children/
[I think ‘Tumult in Clouds’ by Ela Orleans was first released in 2012. I heard it mid 2013 and it is set for re-issue in 2014 (the original Clandestine pressing sold out). For the purpose of this list I’m treating this timeless double LP classic as a 2013 release.]
Other contenders – Calendar Days by Dick Diver, Any Port in a Storm by Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, Tussle by Day Ravies, The Man who Died in his Boat by Grouper, Floating Coffin by Thee Oh Sees, The Flower Lane by Ducktails, Victoria & Jacob by Victoria & Jacob, The Argument by Grant Hart.
The only reasons these albums didn’t burst into the Top 10 are (1) The Top 10 is only 10 and it is already full and (2) I haven’t had as much time to listen to these yet as the others so they are ‘less played’ so far (but not necessarily less enjoyed when they were played).
The album by Victoria & Jacob arrived just before Christmas (from the wonderful Where It’s At Is Where You Are (WIAIWYA) label in the UK). It’s a cracker. If you want to like CHVRCHES but just can’t get past the sugary sheen of their electro-pop or the gratuitous use of “V” in their name, then I recommend the Victoria & Jacob album as a much better exploration of that genre. It’s electronic pop, with beautiful vocals and big beats. But it’s also a bit darker, heavier and somehow dreamier than CHVRCHES & much more satisfying as a result. There’s a slight reminder of early Cocteau Twins and an even bigger reminder of 90s Scottish electro-dreampop outfit One Dove (both favourites here) and I have enjoyed the Victoria & Jacob album a lot in the short time I’ve been playing it.