Rating: 8 / Format: CD / Label: Home Normal
For Words are Something Else, a new release by The Boats for the embryonic Home Normal label, Craig Tattersall and Andy Hargreaves are joined by Chris Stewart, who offers guest vocals on several of the tracks. It’s all disembodied minimal techno and electronica that at first brings to mind the scattered vision of Thomas Brinkmann and Jan Jelinek, with ‘Maps of Nowhere’ building up a succession of layered noises to create something quite insistent and forceful, but without recourse to any obvious template.
There’s a playfulness at work on Words; these tracks mutate and grow organically rather than relying on an established set of sounds. It’s not all sleek 4/4 either: tracks like ‘Keep off the Boats’ and ‘I hope you get well soon…’ find the duo colouring their canvas with a pleasing array of tones and effects. I’m constantly reminded of various long-established dance music tropes, but to their credit Tattersall and Hargreaves manage to disguise these as their own, and with some style. ‘Service before Self’ maintains the album’s rhythmic momentum, but underscores it with wonderfully plangent basslines and miniscule sound-treatments that reinforce the idea that this is a record that has been put together with real love.
Hargreaves’ disembodied vocals, often heavily treated, don’t make the biggest impression and more often than not sound somewhat incidental. The album closes with the seven minute ‘Raindrops’, which seems to fade in and out of the listener’s perception, the ponderous bassline and vocal refrain showcasing The Boats’ marvellous and all too rare talent for producing simple yet soporific hooks. It’s gloriously detached, and posits the group as an act happy to compile sonic sketches which remain tantalisingly incomplete, ready for you, the listener, to fill in with your own imagination. This is impressionistic dance music, full of blind alleys and mysterious paths.
Toby Frith [bleep43]