Airiel - Molten Young Lovers

by Steve Rhodes Rating:7 Release Date:2017-10-13
Airiel - Molten Young Lovers
Airiel - Molten Young Lovers

It's been nearly a decade since Chicago's Airiel played their sole UK tour and I was lucky to see them (in support of regular collaborator Ulrich Schnauss) in the enchanted setting of Salford's Sacred Trinity church, with the highlight a beautiful rendition of my request for 'Cinnamon', from their excellent Winks and Kisses compilation, that I'd stumbled on a few years before. With just one full-length in 2007 and their Kid Games EP in 2012, their output has been fairly sparse until the sudden appearance online of 'Cloudburst' towards the end of last year. Molten Young Lovers, only their second album of their long career, has certainly been worth the wait, maintaining their effects-driven dreamy stance that has bode them so well over the years.

An extended late-80s drum machine intro introduces 'This Is Permanent', as shards and swathes of glacial guitar and a rumbling back-and-forth bass move the song forward, carrying on the mantle from recent acts, The Depreciation Guild or Longwave, with a foot still firmly in the early 90s. Jeremy Wrenn's vocal is plaintive and predominant in the mix, rather than being drowned out by the instrumentation. A nice if somewhat formulaic opener.

'Cloudburst' is an instant success, with an expansive opening as drums, a rolling bass and soaring guitars set the stall, as arpeggiod guitars circle round the track. The monotone vocals take on higher tones and new dimensions in the bridge and the triumphant chorus and are far better for it, akin to The Away Days, Air Formation and other contemporary gazers.

The rather insufferably-titled 'Your Lips My Mouth', which is hopefully more of a ploy on a Cocteau Twins track maintains the squall of atmospheric guitars, but takes the pace down a notch to a more pedestrian level, sadly reflected in much of the track. The bass is more sedate and Jeremy's vocals feel furlorned and lifeless. The song still sounds huge, but doesn't really go anywhere, until the bass-heavy drums drop out and the track changes tact, stepping into a restrained, beautiful and heartfelt refrain, that could rival Slowdive at their most melancholic. A gorgeous salvage of a track that could have been lost to indifference.

That change of momentum seems to have had an impact on the title track, a slow- burner with nice leading, spacious and reflective instrumentation. Bright and breezy, with some lovely double-tracked vocals, it is an optimistic and uplifting number. Not prone to settling down 'Mind Furnace' uses sampled, background noises, crashing gongs, heavier percussion and whispered vocals to a positive effect. The only troubling matter is that the beautiful descending guitar sounds too much like Paul Weller's The Changingman.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the album though is the inclusion of 'Sharron Apple'. A track first released as one of their Winks & Kisses EPS nearly 15 years previous. This revision of the past is a beefier version whilst maintains the frenetic pace of the original. It's still a bit puzzling of why it's been included, but it's still a great link to past glorious, with direct lyrics “All These Things I Know, I never wished for, this is all the muck I learned from you” and great tone drops in the chorus.

Back to the present 'Song Of You' also possesses a great change in tone in its chorus, as chiming and haunting guitars and a marauding bass that weaves neatly in and around the sonic backing leads to the song to it. Jeremy's vocal fits better into the frame of the track, that is so effortlessly dreamy, is it easy to smother yourself in its warm and enveloping notes.

The shimmering opening to 'Keep You' maintains the substance of the album, with guitars sent from the heavens, nodding to The Cocteau Twins and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart at their most relaxed, with only an over-used bass drum feeling a little intrusive to proceedings. Likewise 'You Sweet Talker' takes a stripped-down approach at first, hinting at The Field Mice, as the pace remains cautious, only to be enlivened by the appearance of bass and drums. Both tracks though feel a little lightweight, as if the melodies were a late afterthought to the textures, though the latter benefits from the appearance of a female vocal towards the end of the track that is a nice touch that lifts the song.

'Red Car' is an definite improvement. Louder and fuller from the off, moving away from the floaty and light production, as tremolo-saturated guitars dominate. Though Jeremy's vocals are set-back, with a hint of distortion, they are delivered more forcefully, backed by drums that also push their way past, leading to a more driven and purposeful number, that shows what Airiel are capable of.

'The Painkillers' also shows more oomph, with a nice two-line repeated guitar riff, supplementing shrilled guitars on the speedy album closer, driving the song along, before it goes into full MBV meltdown.

Not afraid to acknowledge their influences Airiel have produced a luscious album that seems like a natural progression of their Winks & Kisses era (quite literally with one track), rather than their last two releases. With the initial early 90s Shoegazing trailblazers reappearing out of the woodwork and producing new material there could always be a danger than those that appeared in their wake could be squeezed out, however with strong releases such as Young Molten Lovers and with Airiel continuing to forge their own identity, there is still plenty of room for these artists to successfully co-exist.

 

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