Adventures of a University Finalist

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Shoegazing Is Fun If Wearing Novelty Slippers

Alba Nova - Your Next Identity/The Charm Offensive EP (Unsigned, 2005)

Alba Nova - Masquerade
Alba Nova - How Dark is Dark
Alba Nova - A New Pose
Alba Nova - The Stranger and the Streetcar

A modern day Dream Pop revival on my landing by Pixies and Feeder fans? Well, as you might know from my last post, I hate placing music in boxes but I'm afraid that's what I think my mate Dan, and his band Alba Nova, have conjoured up on a budget of zero and some mixing software.
However, whereas most dream pop, such as Galaxie 500 and Slowdive, relies on allowing the song to breathe in their arrangements with minimalist guitar work covered in feedback, Alba Nova seem to be perfectionists who seek to fill gaps with acoustic guitars, cellos, violins, the works. There is none of the required ambience here tending more towards the later work of Jason Pierce with Spiritualised. Not that this is a bad thing giving their songs a rather baroque feel that is further emphasised by Guy Mankowski's (vocalist/guitarist/lyricist) sometimes overwrought and frankly verbose lyricisms.
Guy's vocal delivery suits the studio versions of the songs wonderfully and Dan Hoyes' (lead guitarist/other instruments I'm sure/songwriter/perfectionist) ethereal guitar lines match it wonderfully leading to a relationship rather similar to the Sundays' partnership of Wheeler and Gavurin (though I doubt the two will get married). Sadly, his vocals haven't quite carried over to their live performances but I'm more than sure that the dynamic that the group obviously possess means that this won't last too long. Also, where Guy sometimes falls vocally he is either saved by the stunning musical arrangements (best supported by 'Masquerade' and 'How Dark is Dark') or the lovely harmonising of Hollie Martorella (vocals/strings).
If I were to recommend any of the downloads I've been allowed to put on Adventures... (fresh off the mixing desk - thanks Dan) I'd say that 'Masquerade' and 'How Dark is Dark' are the best. The songwriting is obviously tightened with 'How Dark is Dark' not descending into pretentiousness like it could have and instead creating some simply stunning moments (for example pretty much from 3.40 to the end). 'A New Pose' is fantastic too for Hollie and Guy's vocal sparring and probably would most resemble Mojave 3 and Galaxie 500 if it were slightly looser and refrained from having the chorus (I love the chorus both lyrically and musically though so I'm not complaining). 'The Stranger and the Streetcar' is an old number with excellent acoustic riffing, if I can call it that, from Dan, bongos (kidding, apparently it's a djembe) from Tom Freeman (drummer/percussionist) and mandolin by Chris Prior (bassist/ multi-instrumentalist). The rather heavy ending is nice too.
So that's that then. The band have really transcended the limitations placed upon them and created an extremely accomplished and suprisingly polished recording. Check them out before they get signed as they should be. Now, that IS an exclusive. I feel powerful like Ming the Merciless 'cept without the beard and a hatred for Brian Blessed.

Visit - Alba Nova (the site's slightly broken at the moment despite Dan being a Computer Science student. Go figure.)