Big Black Delta - Big Black Delta

Big Black Delta... Not mellow or droney

Review: Big Black Delta – Big Black Delta

Published on April 6th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams

When we spoke to Jonathan Bates last summer, he’d just released the glorious assault of “IFUCKINGLOVEYOU” as a single. That seemed to establish his new project Big Black Delta as a merciless breeding ground of blaring electronic onslaughts, but a cursory listen through the tracks on his Soundcloud revealed a rare ability to temper these abrasive elements with a melodic sophistication sometimes reminiscent of the great (whatever you might think) Electric Light Orchestra. With the forthcoming release of an eponymous debut album, the full scope of Bates’s astounding capabilities shall soon be there for all to see.

Formerly front man of Mellowdrone and a touring musician with M83, Bates has embraced and executed one-man-band-dom as well as anyone Rocksucker can think of in recent times, including Kevin Parker (Tame Impala). “Side of the Road” is a great example of how many seemingly oppositional styles the music of Big Black Delta draws together and makes work with a one hundred per cent success rate: it’s like ELO meets Depeche Mode with a Ween-like proclivity for weirdly modulated vocals. No, wait – it’s like Neon Neon meets Daft Punk. Featuring David Byrne.

Its chorus comes in the form of a Steve Mason-esque chant, and the whole thing somehow manages to sound fun and exuberant even with a haunting synth choir loitering in the background, which we’d barely even noticed until the brief isolation of it on the track. It’s incredible, one of those songs that just keeps going from strength to strength within itself.

“Huggin & Kissin” is like a New Romantic reimagining of Air circa 10 000 Hz Legend, an utterly stonking one at that, while “Money Rain Down” seems to pass by relatively innocuously until it suddenly strikes you – about midway through the chorus, maybe roundabout the first swirl of flutes – that what you’re listening to is in fact spectacularly good, and that baritone sax arrangements are an all-too-overlooked form of aceness.

“Betamax” is a stunning tune, surprisingly Beach-Boys-like and with more fantastic flutes. Though it would seem the obvious ‘tag’, Rocksucker would hesitate to describe this as an ‘electro-pop’ record – that would infer too much tweeness on the part of all the harsh electronics. It’s a remarkable balancing act that few have truly nailed, indeed “The Zebrah” reminds of fellow graduates-with-honours Super Furry Animals and Liars. Let’s chuck of Montreal in there, too.

Then it’s time for “IFUCKINGLOVEYOU”. POW! Hoo yeah! It’s followed by another assault in “x22″, blaring and growling with monotone synth bass, which is followed in turn by the shimmering, soul-infused ’80s pop (right from the top drawer) of “Dreary Moon”. There’s a flighty plastic string arrangement and everything: is there anything this guy can’t do?

After that we get the swooshing synth waves of “PB3″ and the satisfyingly odd percussive elements of “Into the Night”, leaving it to “Love You This Summer” to round off a corking album by sounding like some wonderful cross between the Boards of Canada of The Campfire Headphase and recent-vintage Flaming Lips. What an end to the record, and what a start by Big Black Delta.

Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.