Monday, 1 June 2009

Clarity is bliss

The Beach Boys are my favourite band. Although I like the let’s go surfing, let’s get married and let’s get psychedelic songs, my favourite Beach Boys records are from the post-‘Smile’ period when, thrown off-balance by the mental breakdown of their resident genius writer and producer Brian Wilson, the less prodigiously talented members of the group stepped up to help their damaged leader, releasing a series of fragile, uncertain group albums that are beautiful and moving in their simplicity and cracked vulnerability.

Simian quite clearly share my enthusiasm for this era, as their debut LP ‘Chemistry Is What We Are’ (2001) is full of the quiet harmonics, delicate harmonies and occasionally haphazard musical settings characteristic of Beach Boys LP’s like ‘Smiley Smile’, ‘Friends’ and ’20-20’. More than mere copyists, however, Simian add to the mix with some idiosyncratic songs, a pleasingly retro arsenal of electronic effects and hints of the intelligent dance music that would become their stock in trade on their next LP (‘We Are Your Friends’) and subsequent projects (Simian Mobile Disco).

Creating a half-remembered dream world of menacing scarecrows, strange lights in the sky, cawing crows and creaking fences, ‘Chemistry Is What We Are’ prefigures many of the reference points of the whole Hauntology genre with its atmospheric, strangely nostalgic settings, but does so with wistful pop melodies and abundant vocal harmonies as well as bleeps, blips and other assorted radiophonics. It’s also well designed, featuring a gallery of strange, chimeric hybrid creatures like the sheep dog featured on the cover. Pretty much ignored on its release, and still under the radar today, the LP is highly recommended to anyone unusual interested in the interesting and unusual.

Two tracks: broken psychedelic ballad ‘You Set Off My Brain’ and stomping futuristic singalong ‘One Dimension’.

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