Friday, August 03, 2012


Somewhere between the echoing catacomb-wail-pop of opener 'Balled up Pt1' and the slo-core meandering misery of second track 'Grief' you realise the album title "Levitates" is a misnomer. This record doesn't take to the air but rather sits disconsolately at the bottom of deep, dark well (a place where I like a lot of my music to come from). Throughout these eleven tracks Devoted Friend, aka James Grimshaw, has created a sparse, fragmentary soundtrack for night-time doubts and fears, for when relationships rise and fall and for when life fails to live up to expectations. Many songs are just guitar and boyish, dislocated vocals from Grimshaw; others are given a spooky atmospheric depth from the addition of violin by Olivia Ward-Smith and drums and percussion by Ben Beheshty. Whatever the configuration of musicians, the overall effect is one of delicious despondency and displacement.

The twitchy guitar, distant drum rolls and loud finale of 'Balled Up Pt 2' could be a lofi Jeff Buckley fronting Sebadoh for one of the darker moments on "Sebadoh III". 'What Will We Do For The Rest Of Our Lives' or 'Hide And Seek' remind me of the skeletal, nocturnal alt-country of Songs: Ohia. 'It Doesn't Matter' is a sleepy, muted instrumental ushered in by electronic alarm-clock beeping and then angrily concluding in wordless howls. 'Chaos Fear-y' has a jazzy strummed guitar swing to undercut its gentle anguish and 'Levitate' sounds woozily at peace - at first - but such solace is short-lived. In theme and tone, "Levitates" also reminds me of "Flaws" by Boletes from earlier this year but not as cripplingly sinister.

Devoted Friend is a ragged, raw and uneasy listen but is also compellingly vivid - despite the lofi morbidity and cryptic, fragmentary nature of the album. What did I say about not soaring? A distinctive and powerful debut.

Devoted Friend Levitates [BUY]

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