Monday, August 13, 2012

AMBULANCES Flying Simply Explained

The last album review here was for a record called “Levitates” which had a subterranean sound. Now here is an album called “Flying Simply Explained” which was recorded at The Sub Station in Rosyth. I’m not sure if The Sub Station is actually subterranean but despite occasional moments of darkness, the second album from Ambulances is a much more of an airy, overground record than the one from Devoted Friend.

The Fife four-piece have re-grouped in the wake of band members departing and even dying and produced a crisp, shiny collection of largely sunlit alt-pop songs. Never purely synth-pop despite the synthesizers and drum effects; never fully indie-pop despite the bitter-sweet male/female vocals; and never backward-looking despite its 90s sheen and musical reference points. The double-sided single in April (both sides included here) was a neatly upbeat package that drew comparisons from me to King Biscuit Time for ‘Feeling Sick’ (of which Steve Mason has now created a dub version) plus Ladytron and The Dandy Warhols for ‘Shine On My Shoes’. The remaining songs on this eleven track release are a cohesive grouping but mix wider sounds and styles with a tendency to more occasional downbeat moments.

Opener ‘Too High’ is a love-song about being broken in pieces that mixes a rich guitar twang and the seductive cooing vocals of Sara Colston with a feeling of dewy-eyed sadness. ‘Bimble Grimm’ is a curious fairy-tale slice of slow-tempo psyche-pop. Later the jubilant swing and gleeful horns of ‘Animal Song’ is the record’s most upbeat moment despite more stern vocals from Scott Lyon. Elsewhere I hear hints of Cinerama and Kirsty Maccoll in ‘Wee Beast’, more Ladytron in the crunchy electroclash-leaning ‘Weak Spot’, and even the romantic bar-room croon of an Edwyn Collins or Richard Hawley in ‘Falling Apart’. For all the hints of sorrow sitting beneath the sunny dream-pop, whether lyrically or in the contrasting voices of Lyon and Colston, ‘Telescopes’ does provide a moment of unequivocal optimism: ‘I’m in love with the future’.

‘Flying Simpled Explained’ is a mature, carefully constructed set of songs that doesn’t kow-tow to the zeitgeist or hip references but is confident in its own happy-sad, self-released sheen. The sound of a band coming up for air?

Ambulances Flying Simply Explained [BUY]

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