There Only Once
Out Of Place
Rise And Fall
The Soundcarriers – Celeste
Just like the second book, the second album can, on occasions, be a bit of a trial. Musical history is littered with disappointing follow ups. The Soundcarriers, like wise musicians before them, have taken a more prosaic approach, and have simply taken their time.
Here we have another blast of summer flecked sound. Last year’s Harmonium (awarded 4 stars in Mojo and Uncut) found a lush and spiked musical template; music so inspired and languid one’s thoughts were drawn to Broadcast and Stereolab and like minded cosmic travellers. Exactly where The Soundcarriers were really ‘coming from’ was long in debate: Nottingham? The West Coast? Saturn? The sound moves between all three locales. It doesn’t really matter where you land, the atmosphere is always perfect.
In Celeste we find a tighter, more focused group. The same authentic analog warmth pervades, but with the addition of new sounds, playful blips and bleeps suggesting an extended musical canvas. The influence of jazz and ‘Kosmiche’ music becomes apparent as the muscular Last Broadcast floats from the turntable. What a groove! The bass work of Can’s Holger Czukay is instantly brought to mind, but soon we find ourselves in unexplored space-rock terrain. A denser sound pervades, that feels far removed from the lysergic whoosh of Harmonium.
Any thoughts of a tighter sound are mischievously dashed with the arrival of Rolling On. A spirited bouncy shuffle so infectious one is moved to remove all footwear and dance vigorously. The song provides familiar Soundcarriers’ warmth, blessed with vocal harmonies that echo the magic of Trish Keenan or even Karen Carpenter.
Was it not the popular music press who once invented the thorny term ‘retro-futurism’? The Soundcarriers aren’t retro or futurist. Where they succeed is in tight, ensemble playing that really swings. A spirited quartet for the future certainly, but one that holds true to tried and trusted lessons from the best phases of music history. The band’s live performance at last year’s Green Man Festival saw the band take to the stage on a sunny Sunday lunchtime and the sheer dexterity of each player amazed the serious music enthusiasts that had gathered for this unique gathering of musical delights.
My only meeting with The Soundcarriers occurred at The Freak Zone recording studios last summer. Erstwhile colleague and producer Henry Lopez Real was present for the session, and whilst we watched the band, through a small television monitor, the authenticity of what the guys were doing came across in the spotting of a particular brand of bass amplification. Even Henry (a man not known for overstatement) couldn’t resist commenting on such a refreshingly ‘flat’ bass sound.
Singer and guitarist Dorian on speaking about the new LP mentioned the phrase ‘a deeper level of consciousness’, and in the finely detailed pop psychedelia of There Only Once, the proof of this statement is at once clear. Thank the lord these guys insist on pressing vinyl records too. The thought of Celeste being played through any less than valve driven fifteen inch speakers is frankly unthinkable.