A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Ashes Grammar
Despite their name, this bunch are actually from Philly in the good ol' US of A. However, like the wealth of other American acts currently making a big splash in the indie scene, they're clearly in thrall to British bands like The Chameleons and Cocteau Twins who steamrollered musical boundaries by adding layers of ambient drone and distortion to their melodies. The term dream pop was coined to describe the output of these groups and that tag fits here, given the obvious influence on the music - as well as the fact that submerging yourself in this record is like taking in a pop concert (or at points a superclub) from a particularly comfortable spot under your duvet. The fact there are 22 tracks on offer here seems daunting at first, but a fair portion of these are less than two minutes long, functioning either as short ambient interludes or, more often, extended intros to the tracks proper (bringing to mind Cut Copy's brilliant In Ghost Colours, never a bad thing).
For such an idiosyncratic album (see the partially lower-cased song titles and the repeated themes therein - not to mention 11-second homages to Estonian composers) this proves to be a surprisingly accessible work. Male and female voices weave though chimes, soothing synths and plonking piano loops to create an incredibly three-dimensional sound as simple melodies are built upon with layers and layers of rich, heavenly sound. Seven people contributed to this album, helping to create a vibrant fullness that really seizes the imagination, and an excellent job has been done in balancing the record, as with a little less restraint its easy to imagine a too-many-cooks scenario leaving it feeling seriously over-egged. As hinted at earlier there's a real dance music sensibility underpinning some of these tracks too, the shuffling but insistent drum patterns on the likes of Close chorus would work brilliantly on the dancefloor if stripped of the sweeping choral chants and shuffling guitars. Likewise, Life's great would happily sit as an interlude on a techno compilation. You get the feeling the bubbling-under sense of joy is building to a huge release, and the riotous denouement of Headphone space doesn't disappoint, the perfect end to a spectacular record.
The band have made a big step-up from the DIY bedroom production of their debut Scribble Mural Comic Journal and the move to working in, as the liner notes describe it, 'a big room' has paid off. The album is full of huge sounds and the reverb-heavy production lends the album a cavernous feel at times, but the sensation of being once removed from the music, which at points can actually feel like you're hearing it from the next room, creates a wonderfully paradoxical mesh of bombast and intimacy. A honeycomb structure weaved with candyfloss, the wealth of ideas encased in this fuzzy gem will take an age to discover.