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Edinburgh, 2010. In bereavement, homesickness and uncertainty, two artists create three tracks. Even the names are stricken: “Gravebell,” “Blood Bridge” and “Wolves.” With time the first of these songs will begin a fascinating debut, percussion dancing on the head of a pin, now a rusty harmonica producing metallic, ambient vibrations. But it is not a harmonica. It is a piano run through the some of the producer’s innumerable manipulations.
Graveyard Tapes are Euan McMeeken and Matthew Collings. McMeeken (vocals, piano) is known for fronting the chamber pop ensemble The Kays Lavelle, for his solo piano work as glacis, and for his independent label mini50 records. Collings (guitar, production) is notorious for his highly experimental solo material, his collaborations with Dag Rosenqvist and Talvihorros, and for his sorely-missed alias Sketches For Albinos. Our Sound Is Our Wound is their collaborative debut, and marks the triumphant synthesis of both art forms, combining McMeeken’s tapwater vocals and delicate piano arrangements with Collings’ electronic wizardry and percussion innovations.
The two ostensibly divergent styles are never at odds. To the contrary, one deftly compliments the other. Those earlier sessions feature pure, slow, minor key piano melodies and aching vocal lines, with backgrounds popping and crackling as if on fire. The sound sources chirp and rattle with Collings’ laptop alchemy, at times collapsing under the weight, yet the samples and field recordings never draw undue attention to themselves. The song is the thing.
Most of the recent material is uptempo, alive with Collings’ scurrying percussion and agitated guitar form. A rarity among the DAW generation, Collings delights in letting drum strikes miss the mark, opting instead for a sloppy but willing cascade of thuds, clicks or shots. The effect is somehow precisely on tempo when taken as a whole. Much of his forthcoming album Splintered Instruments was produced by Ben Frost and – as sonic comparisons go – Frost’s atomized compositions are a good start. Yet the soft undergrowth of processing matched with the aching, everyman falsetto recalls Kid A-era Radiohead. McMeeken’s startling lyrical metaphors and the flickering light of his piano are timeless, resistant to easy comparisons.
From the pulsing complexities of “Gravebat,” to the kinetic, guitar-fueled elation of “Hunting For Statues” and the trembling vocal hooks throughout “Insomniac Dawn,” Our Sound Is Our Wound is a bold statement, and should stand as a defining moment for both of these young, intriguing talents. This is dark pop with a broken heart and a lab full of boiling digital experiments.
Artwork by Jamie Mills www.jamiemillsillustration.blogspot.com
- Experimental Rock