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Review: Tunng – Turbines
Published on June 13th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
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How on Earth do you categorise Tunng, anyway? Psychedelic samba-folk-tronica is our best attempt. Turbines, the Londoners’ fifth LP, is described as being their “sci-fi folk rock album” by lead singer/songwriter Mike Lindsay, but perhaps it would be more instructive for us to throw some reference points at you: Animal Collective, Fiery Furnaces, Efterklang, recent-vintage solo Stephen Malkmus, maybe even Field Music in a strange way. Basically, the ideas come thick and fast, and they’re invariably brilliant ones.
Lindsay’s vocal partnership with Becky Jacobs is mesmerising, their voices both pitched with a worldly, reassuring hush that’s cut from the same cloth as that of the departed Sam Genders, whose sparkling debut album as Diagrams was one of Rocksucker’s favourites of last year. In octave harmony do they deliver the commanding chorus of (what sounds like) “Oh oh, sing before your lifetime’s over / Oh oh, sing before you see”, the crowning glory of a slow-burning, fiery-bellied number marked also by swirly synth arpeggios and an organic percussive shuffle that crunches like autumn leaves underfoot, yes we did just write that.
“Once” bubbles off into the ether from whence it emerged, teeing up “Trip Trap” to start out all twinkly before slipping into some weird rubbery bounce. Lindsay and Jacobs continue to shine, each landing the dreamy side of ‘slacker’ and each equipped with the requisite clarity to assert themselves amongst the otherworldliness going on around them. “Trip Trap” becomes quite the disjointed shuffle, but disjointed in a good way, tumbling along like a square wheel with its mismatched beat. See, you just don’t get that with Oasis. It throbs and grooves its utterly bizarre way over the finish line, registering instantaneously as a bloody triumph for sound and noises, all that aural stuff.
Another tangential odyssey of oddness, “By This” also wields an innate melodiousness that masks just how thoroughly complex it all is, this proclivity for good tunes and melodic sweet spots ensuring that the complexity is never in danger of overwhelming or feeling overbearing. We’re then treated to the tooting nostalgia trip of “The Village”, served up on a thrillingly ‘off’-seeming downstroke motif of acoustic strumming; the staccato impact of this strumming dances a strange sort of tango with a plastic soul string section, then the whole thing fizzes up and over like some gleeful cola.
The overuse of the word ‘then’ is practically unavoidable in reviewing Turbines, such is its eventfulness. It’s an eventfulness cloaked by gentleness – bombast doesn’t ever even come close to entering the equation – but it’s an eventfulness nonetheless. “Bloodlines” is a nocturnal mushroom trip in nature, an anthemically marching, barmily shuffling one at that, while “Follow Follow” starts out all “Sound of Silence” then (there’s that word again) somehow incorporates all sorts of laterally conceived, keyboardy unpredictability; there are shades of mid-noughties SFA, and it’s simply a phenomenal track.
“So Far From Here” involves a repeated refrain of “and we’ll run” but here Tunng sound especially unrushed, allowing it to forge an oasis of sweet singalong amidst the madness. Need we even tell you about “Embers” and “Heavy Rock Warning”? They’re both astonishing too, and in quite different ways; suffice it to say that Tunng, on Turbines, have really thrown down some kind of gauntlet. Is it the folktronica odyssey to end all folktronica odysseys? Whatever it is, it’s an album of the year contender.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
Turbines will be released on June 17th by Full Time Hobby.