16 Mar 2015

Ten Mouth Electron "Brite Lites/Cut Up Technique"

Review by Joseph Murphy.

Though still early in 2015, Manchester, UK’s Ten Mouth Electron has been on the move. In January, theQuietus included a genre-blending new song, "Lux Mundi", on their "Minor Characters" compilation, and, in February, The Skinny showcased TME’s entertaining debut music video for "Young Nuns".  Part of Liverpool International Music Festival last year, the five piece seems to be getting well-deserved attention for their abilities to revitalize shoegaze, psychedelic, rockabilly, Krautrock, and noise-punk aesthetics and blend them seamlessly. I’m sure more than one person has been tempted to invent a portmanteau for their genre, and, listening to songs like "Cut Up Technique" – or, from an earlier EP, "Happy Birthday (Bang! Bang!)" – the temptation is understandable. Even within a single song, TME can sound like a gothic surf troupe or a pedal-gazing interstellar mission. With more new music on its way, TME’s last release from August of 2014 is a perfect handshake with their work with the implicit promise so far met this year.

Opener "Brite Lites" is a strong, reverb-and-delay-laden track with a few notable idiosyncrasies. First of all, the vocals are doubled; the harmony is low, almost whispered, and eerily robotic at times, while, at the forefront, the vocals are delivered with a swagger reminiscent of Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays) or Frank Tovey (Fad Gadget). Secondly, unlike many comparable dream pop or shoegaze tracks, "Brite Lites" focuses on the composition of the song rather than the trailing of vocals and instruments. At its heart, it’s a well-arranged and plotted pop song. The effects and layers act only as a vehicle rather than its end.

"Cut Up Techniques" lays the groundwork with a steady, walking bass line and tight rhythm that allows a bit of freedom in the collage of guitar layers that come and go throughout the song. It’s an atmospheric take on post-punk – mostly; then, with skill, the song shifts naturally into a sort of surf rock/punk anthem – and back again. It’s a great example of TME’s genre-blending potential.

That leaves the two latest installments then: "Young Nuns" and "Lux Mundi". Both are whole new animals. It’s clear though that TME has mastered their sound, as both tracks play to their skills. "Lux Mundi" begins with a feedback-drenched riff pounding that recalls early ‘90s alternative/noise (in the best way) and switches to an upbeat, bouncing verse with smooth baritone vocals – and, of course, seamlessly back again to a slow, space rock passage. And then back again still. This track, as reported above, appeared as part of theQuietus’ compilation celebrating minor characters in literature. This reviewer is happy to say that – with the help of the chorus: “…I was a bicycle...” – guessed it must be a reference to Irish novel The Third Policeman’s de Selby and, with some searching, confirmed it. Knowing this – for those familiar with the novel – makes the song an even greater success. The comic elements and announcement-like vocals all recall the darkly satirical mood of Flann O’Brien’s work. Likewise, "Young Nuns" (musically and visually) is a worthwhile listen and viewing. Next to "Lux Mundi", this song marks TME for continually interesting work in the years to come.

"Brite Lites/Cut Up Techniques" – as well as their "Happy Birthday" EP – is available on their Bandcamp at a pay what you will price. Look out for more from Ten Mouth Electron.

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