THE BEGINNING

Brooklyn’s Small Black sound like a band that started in an attic one summer.

smallblacksingle

Small Black
Small Black EP
[Jagjaguwar]

Brooklyn’s Small Black sound like a band that started in an attic one summer. And that’s because they did. Their fizzing tape music is covered in a layer of loft dust that makes it crackle like grit on a record as it reaches for evening sunlight. It’s wholly American (all filmic kisses on beaches that are without gravel and broken glass) and for that reason it’s a much welcome slice of Casio-haze-pop escapism.

In truth, you’ll be hard pushed to find a summery climate and stretch of shoreline as idyllic as the opening ‘Despicable Dogs’ anywhere on the planet. Yeah, it’s as dreamy and lo-fi as Brooklyn’s pulse has been for these past 12 months, but its delicate, meandering keyboards and almost-too-emotional-to-speak vocals make it infinitely more touching than your typically assertive garage band. It’s all down to the electronics with Small Black. ‘Bad Lover’’s spluttering drum machine sits atop a wall of organ static that makes the band sound like The Radio Dept., ‘Lady In Wires’ is full of Balearic samples and rhythms, and even the raining, shrill guitar riffs of ‘Weird Machines’ sound like they could be dripping from some electronic instrument or other.

‘Despicable Dogs’ is certainly ‘the looker’, but just as your ugly newborn can one day become your favourite (this happens!), ‘King Of Animals’ is the EP’s dark horse… or, y’know, Technicolor sunshine horse.

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Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Round And Round
[4AD]

Ariel Pink’s debut single for 4AD lasts over five minutes because that’s how long it takes to shoehorn in this many different sounds. As the godfather of avant-garde LA pop, he’s learnt that standing still is eventually tantamount to going backwards, so ‘Round And Round’ is constantly on the move, from its initial short pump of AM radio soul to Kings of Convenience easy listening, to a Bowie, Ziggy-esque breakdown, to brief spoken word. It travels on, always making sure that Ariel Pink remains ahead of the dreamy crowd.

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The Hundred In The Hands
Dressed In Dresden
[Warp]

The Hundred In The Hands are a duo (of course) from New York (duh!) that sound – here at least – exactly like forgotten Manchester twosome Modernaire. Which is a good thing. ‘Dressed In Dresden’ is filled with the kind of electronic indie swag that’s been doing the rounds since Bloc Party’s ‘Banquet’ (in fact, its guitar jabs and bass rumble seem to have been lifted straight off of that release), and an angelic female vocal that once again pulls off that neat trick of making ‘credible pop’, this time without the uncredible ginger quiff.

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Wild Palms
Deep Dive
[One Little Indian]

Post punk 4-piece Wild Palms have always been weary of the ‘East London’ band tag/smear. Despite playing angular Gang of Four-esque indie, they’ve tried to put not so much as a finger in that pigeonhole for fear of it getting stuck. It’s a wise move, even if touting Can and Neu! as chief influences isn’t (kraut is far from out right now). The band have successfully avoided the ties of a small, elitist scene, but not by sounding like Can and Neu!. ‘Deep Dive’ is the sort of epic, noir pop rock that opens for Editors and overshadows the rest of the gig. It’s quite simply the best song that White Lies never wrote.

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Celestial Bodies
Vanity / Waste Your Time
[Home. Under. Ground]

Ferry Gouw cut his teeth with nearly-made-it projection-bummers Semifinalists. His creativity (which the film maker/artist/musician has in abundance) now spews from a performance name of Celestial Bodies, and this double ‘A’ side is both his and new imprint Home. Under. Ground’s first. Little separates the tracks, perhaps explaining why one hasn’t been muscled onto a side inferiorly marked ‘B’, with ‘Vanity’ lurching to skeletal drums and sparse 80s synths and ‘Waste Your Time’ matching the gloom with a wash of static and deep moans. Somehow it doesn’t even matter that he can’t sing.

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Originally published in issue 16 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. April 2010

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