Saturday, 3 May 2014

Album Review:The Horrors – Luminous


First impressions count for a lot, and that's especially true in the music world. The Horror's showed up in skinny black jeans looking like a band that spent too much time listening to Bauhaus. Amongst a wave of hype from outlets like NME, their debut album Strange House won them a host of fans with it's scruffy and dark post punk sound but while it impressed a lot of people it didn't seem like a sound that could sustain them. Then the band took a left field turn releasing the eight minute krautrock epic Sea Within a Sea, a track full of synthesizer rhythms and mesmeric looping drums, from the follow up record Primary Colours and really proved they were not a band to be overlooked. For the album they worked with Geoff Barrow and Chris Cunningham, delving into shoegaze and Jesus & The Mary Chain style noise pop and getting themselves a Mercury Music Prize nomination in the process.

2011's Skying explored new wave and British psychedelia leaning more on the electronics of keyboardist and synthesiser player Tom Cowan and saw the band becoming an ever more approachable act. The Horror's latest album Luminous continues to blend and refine these diverse influences in what might be their most polished and cohesive effort to date.

Chasing Shadows thunders into view after a short ambient passage with the huge sound that bands like The Verve and Ride would create. Anthemic and positive, this is The Horror's taking their sound out into the sunlight. The lyrics, often of relationships seem positive here, vocalist Faris Badwan captures that feeling of early romance as your mind plays out the future ahead of you. And its not just the lyrics that are positive, I See You starts of as the most pop minded track that the horrors have put together. Carried by layered synthesizer arpeggios and a big chorus before switching up to a glorious, hypnotically celebratory refrain of crashing drums and waves of ascending guitars.

Track like So Know You Know and In and Out of Sight are pretty much synth pop carried by the flickering sounds of analog electronics, the latter especially having a darker feel, as the bass and drums provide a danceable groove. Guitarist Joshua Hayward creates some of the most creative sounds I've heard in a while, following the Kevin Shields approach of utilising effects to make the instrument sound as little like a guitar as possible. On Jealous Sun he creates a sound like a string section recreating whale song before a sound like it's ripping itself apart amongst layers of distortion. Whilst Faris Badwan's voice can sometimes get a little lost amongst the noise on Luminous, on Change Your Mind, a song full of sixties pop atmosphere, the singer's gentle, pining croon shines through over a 6/4 drum shuffle. 'Hey, I'm still burning/Would you really walk away form me?' Badwan sings, momentarily bursting that positive bubble that Luminous seems to exist within.

Luminous is full of likeable tracks, none of which really let the album down and stands a s proof of a band that has shaken of it's early image and continue to go from strength to strength. They are one of those rare bands were you can see the indispensable contribution of each member, all of which seem to get an equal chance to shine on what is their most balanced album. It isn't as gritty as their debut or as noisey as Primary Colours, but Luminous is the strongest statement the band have made to date.

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