Love Inks - EXI - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Love Inks - EXI

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2014-09-08

Mixing minimalist electronica with dusty Americana continues to pay off for Austin trio Love Inks. ‘Shoot 100 Panes of Glass’ sets the tone perfectly on the third album, it’s clicking, heartbeat rhythm sounding like a thoroughly chilled Matmos beneath singer Sherry LeBlanc unshowy but heartfelt vocals.

Songs such as the title track and ‘Dawn/Poem’ are lovelorn pop perfection despite their sparse production, at times so empty it sounds like nothing but a metronome and a hesitantly played guitar. Much of the album follows this template. However, not all the songs are strong enough to survive the music’s central gimmick – the ultra-basic drum-machine beats.

It’s a tricky one; with a conventional drummer, the likes of ‘I Don't Hear That’ might be a little too sappy and twee for their own good. But there’s only so much variation you can get out of a tinny beat and some rudimentary guitar chords. When the songs are rich with melody, they transcend Love Ink’s self-imposed limitations to sound bigger and deeper than they are, but elsewhere, as on the otherwise beguiling ‘Way Out’, that nagging tap-tap-tap just becomes an irritant.

Love Inks are definitely to be applauded for doing something different and brave. It helps when they introduce some variation to their electronic palate, as on ‘I Don’t Hear That’, ‘Sky Machine’, the R.E.M.-esque ‘New West’, or lovely closing number ‘Spirit Communication’, but their mission statement of sticking to a bare bones sound isn’t doing the weaker numbers here any favours.

At times the artist Love Inks sound most like is The Space Lady, the outsider performer who played her minimalist, ghostly, retro-futuristic takes on popular songs on the streets of Colorado before becoming an alternative music hero. However, the strong melody and Mazzy Star sway of album highlight ‘Regular Lovers’ proves Love Ink’s strengths are in their composition of conventional guitar-pop songs.

Stripping your music back to basics is a worthy experiment (one many more bands should be attempting, frankly) but you then need to begin rebuilding in a different way, as Bowie, The Raincoats and Young Marble Giants all did at various points. It’s a journey Love Inks need to set out on now. 

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