Indians - Somewhere Else - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Indians - Somewhere Else

by Daryl Worthington Rating:6 Release Date:2013-01-28

The debut album by Indians, aka Soren Lokke Juul, walks a path well-trodden by a variety of leftfield US pop acts in the last few years. Although Danish himself, Juul's music seems to fit most closely alongside the likes of Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver and Atlas Sound in its attempt to casually throw together influences both old and contemporary into a cohesive whole.

Opening track 'New' begins with a sparse drum beat, reminiscent of any number of Phil Spector produced tracks. Juul's vocals themselves have a dreamy swoon to them which, despite their obvious masculinity, for some reason summons the teen heartbreak of The Crystals. The song's initial sparseness is eventually replaced with a burbling synth arpeggio, before the track launches into an epic mid-section, built on layers of sound like a rocket launching into orbit.

The stark contrast between the song's languid summery verses and huge mid-section is reminiscent of the similarly placed extreme shifts in dynamics and textures found in Dennis Wilson's 'Thoughts of You'. Like Wilson's song, this sudden burst disappears as immediately as it comes, with the song quickly reverting back to its bare final verse. This opening track sets the scene for much of the rest of the album - a basis in retro sounds augmented by ambitious production and arrangement.

Much of the album is built on swirling synth textures and processed drums which I can only describe as 'sounding 80s'. The songs have an ability to conjure memories of 80s power ballads, not necessarily any in particular way, but just their overall feel and aesthetic. 'Reality Sublime' is built on a loop of wobbling cathedral-sized synths. The reverb-soaked booming drums, hand-claps and backing vocal 'ooohs' have a new-age, self-help feel to them. Bizarrely, the whole track reminds me of Cliff Richards 'Saviour's Day' more than anything else. I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether I'm being pejorative here.

The album is largely built around mid-tempo songs, with a spooky sense of loss seeping through the lyrics. It's not surprising that Indians have received comparisons with Bon Iver. Despite Indians' bombastic, futuristic arrangements, they convey a similar sense of personal and geographic isolation. 'Magic Kids' is built on slow-moving chords, underpinned by rhythm guitars layered with delay. Like 'Reality Sublime', it comes across like some lost power ballad. Lines such as, "Your eyes don't see anymore" representing the vague sense of loss which runs through the album.

Throughout, there is a shifting bed of acoustic and synthetic textures which deliver a rich and diverse sound. Final track 'Somewhere Else' begins with a church organ and echo-drenched vocals before abstract, ghostly synth sounds enter alongside a pumping beat. The cumulative effect of the track, and much of the album, is somewhere between Electric Light Orchestra at their most synth-heavy, and minimal techno.

Indians display an impressive range of influences on this album. However, perhaps revealingly of a debut, it lacks focus. Sonic diversity has been achieved at the expense of a personal identity. Tracks often sound like an experiment in writing in a particular style, and sound cluttered with too many ideas at once. There seems to be little relation, for instance, between the Fleet Foxes-sounding Americana of 'Cakelakers' and the more electronic and orchestral sounding parts of the album.

As mentioned at the start, Indians' debut album seems to have absorbed many of the same influences as bands like Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear - a brew of Van Dyke Parks style weird 60s pop, modern electronica and lo-fi college rock. However, they are not deployed in a way which leads to a cohesive whole, meaning that, although the album is a lush listen, it perhaps serves more as a statement of potential, rather than a finished article.

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