Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love


The timeless back catalogue of 4AD only encourages modern artists to pay homage and play within the 4AD styles of music, Dream Pop, Shoegaze, Noise Pop and Post-Punk. With 4AD being a cult, independent record label, many artists flock towards the inevitable commercial success and creative freedom whilst receiving financial support by the label. The Big Pink are a Noise Pop duo with Electronic influences. That pretty much sums up The Big Pink.. They use heavy Electronic beats amidst the drumming and play Jesus & Mary Chain-esque electric guitars. The girl groups of the 60's are sustained with Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell's charmful, lyrics of love.

The original and most common line up within a band includes four members. The guitarist, drummer, bass and singer. The Big Pink take advantage of creative freedom, with just two members they heavily rely on supporting members whilst playing live. For this album they used a drummer who they toured with named Akiko Matsuura. Both members are skilled instrumentalists, so they both played synthesizer, bass and guitar for the album. They then brought in guest vocalists for supporting vocals. This set up seems to have worked well, but it isn't sustainable for a band on the rise.

Screeching guitar work and layered reverb are met with a heart racing bass riff and energetic tremolo guitars on the track 'Crystal Visions'. The vocals are surprisingly clear, even though the sound is purely layered and heavily effect driven. I must clarify how clear the vocals sound. They are as if the distortion and heavy bass don't exist.. I'm surprised how neat the production sounds, taking in the fact that this is a Noise Pop song. It finally clicked when I read Rich Costey mixed the album. Rich Costey being the man behind the Glasvegas sound, heard one year prior on their debut album.

An exciting 'Too Young To love' takes the beautiful sounding guitar work from the previous track and adds an aggressive Electronic beat to create the wall of sound technique. Layers upon layers are used with sweet lyrics and child like vocals adding to the lustful sound. As the song progresses, so does the volume. The vocals are again clear, working well with the well produced sound. This is repeated with the heart thumping 'Dominoes'. With the repeated chorus "These girls fall like dominoes", the duo enter into a realm of Pop. Although the previous, layered sound is still present, it can only be heard on the chorus. This leaves room for a clear, well written verse/chorus/verse structure, with the energetic, elevated chorus with synthesizers and well recorded bass. Most people will know The Big Pink from overhearing Dominoes on one of the many television advertisements. I actually bought this album after hearing the pre-release single 'Velvet', allowing me time to digest Dominoes in it's full, intended album form.

Phil Spector is an influence on The Big Pink. This can be heard all over the album, but especially on the track 'Love In Vain'. With heartfelt lyrics, the drumming is very Be My Baby-esque. It's not hard to find this in today's music, but many of the Noise Pop/Shoegaze artists take this drumming style because it allows room for improvised guitar work and scandalous textures of additional music built upon the simple drum riff. 'At War With The Sun' has an impressive melodic feel with supporting vocals and energizing chorus with additional guitar work and further distortion. This song has that 'part two' style. By this I mean the second half is drastically different to the first, in terms of sound, effects and structure. We hear an improved guitar riff and faster drumming, with a noisy, uncharacteristic ending.

The beat friendly 'Golden Pendulum' starts with a heavy synthesizer riff alongside deep bass and strings. It eventually mellows out and the vocals kick in. The Electronic drumming adds to the synthetic texture. With sythesized strings and percussion, the lack of guitar is disturbing, however the second half to the song includes various distorted guitars and further single noted strings. They use the opener as the chorus, with the strong bass and synthesizer riff splitting the sweet lyrics up from the aggressive instrumentation. The song ends in typical 4AD style with a Shoegaze, layered fade out. 

Alan Moulder lends his mixing skills with the single 'Velvet'. The very famous producer who has recorded some of the best Shoegaze albums of all time, gives a delicate, melodic production on this song. it was released prior to the album and received mostly positive acclaim. Heavy bass and a synthetic, slow guitar riff make the beginnings of the song. The vocals are both harmonic and sweet. They leave the listener with a clean, beautiful image as the lyrics "I found her in a dream, looking for me", shine bright. This is just one lyrical reference. The whole song is one gigantic piece of love, it's one of the strongest songs on the album and the instrumental isn't far from perfect either. Moulder obviously knows what hes doing. 

'Frisk' starts with a little synthesized riff, which is built over light drumming and a constant bass note from one of the many syhthesizers. The sound is different to the early tracks. This has far more synthesized instruments and less guitar work. The bass is visable but hardly compared to the strong drumming and synthesized wall of sound. This is one of my least favourite tracks because without any formal timed structure, it just sounds messy. The title track features a guest vocalist for a duet, with great drum reverbsynth line makes an appearance here. This separates the verse from the chorus with great effect.

One of the strongest tracks, 'Tonight', starts with an electronic drum riff before descending into a gritty mass of distortion and bass whilst maintaining that electronic drum riff, actual drumming enters on top, which later takes over. As the dirty guitar takes place on the left, the synthesizers are played on the right, with the strong, high pitched vocals taking place in the centre. It's an all round solid track with great vocals and fantastic structure allowing it to be one of those few singles. I'm not down playing the album tracks because most of them are all very strong and distinctive, but the stand out tracks, are stand out tracks. 

The album closes with 'Count Backwards From Ten'. It has support vocals by Valentine Fillol-Cordier, who lends her vocals for several tracks on this album. The lyrics focus on a broken down relationship with no energy or enigma. It's a beautiful end to the album. It features a very high pitched electric guitar riff as the acoustic guitar plays simple with the desperate vocals. The track is very slow with a delicate image being portrayed with the lyrics that stand out, such as "Better off dead" and "We're not alone".

When you strip all the effects and layers back, we begin to see a bigger picture. These tracks are not just noisy and heavily influenced by previous 4AD artists. The raw influences come from Phil Spector, The Jesus & Mary Chain and just about every Electro-Rock outfit since the 90's. One of the best features here is the lyrics, all involving love and different aspects of love. Some may call this sloppy and unoriginal, but with the production value as strong as this and with the pure, energetic, Electronic pieces, this is among the best albums from 2009 without a doubt.

8.7

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