Wild Beasts

Present Tense

Written by: TL on 27/02/2014 13:51:58

While we've been expanding our coverage of indie music - particularly from the British scene - in recent years, Kendal's Wild Beasts have not previously appeared in Rockfreaks.net's gaze, despite the healthy measures of hype the quartet has garnered, with their second album "Two Dancers" for instance being considered for 2010's Mercury Prize and with the band winning 2011's music category in the London Awards For Arts And Performance. So while the release of fourth album "Present Tense" can be seen as a strange time for us to start paying attention - considering that the band has opted out of working with their regular producer Richard Fornby in order to explore further electronic frontiers - one listen to opening song "Wanderlust" was enough to make me sit up and pay attention.

With a booming synth and an agitated beat, the song floods your headphones and as soon as frontman Hayden Thorpe's highly characteristic vocals make it around to the "Don't confuse me with someone who gives a fuck" refrain you'll somehow be caught up between the echoing roundness of his tone and the dark ambiance of the soundscape. "Nature Boy" continues on a similar line, a tribal drum supporting a stately snare and sounds building and building while you struggle to guess whether they come from buttons, dials, keys, pedals or actual strings. The style is more immersive than catchy, finding its power in layers of sounds more so than in memorable choruses, reminding me of a darker version of the more atmospheric moments of The Maccabees or Bombay Bicycle Club.

The mesmerizing darkness of Denmark's own minimalists Veto also comes to mind here, but Wild Beasts stand apart from all these references by being more stately and lumbering in tempo and more exotically unpredictable in the array of sounds employed. It makes for a calmly enchanting sonic tapestry which can fill your apartment or your headphones completely and send your mind wandering while your hands or feet are occupied with something else. There are also dynamic moments here and there that could work well at live shows - The echoing bass tones towards the end of "Daughters" for instance - only I could imagine the band substituting the tempered beats for more excited versions to make the most of things in that setting.

On record however, the songs on "Present Tense" refuse to set its listener off, opting rather to gradually fill up every cubic inch of air in the room around you until it feels like you're submerged in the soundscape. The cynic in me would argue that such an effect has a shorter expiration date than more dynamically engaging songs, but that being said, Wild Beasts are almost suffocatingly good at their craft on "Present Tense", creating music that can steal an hour of your life if you just lie on your back and stare at the ceiling while listening to Thorpe's uniquely chanting vocals, which have a booming depth like a Mark Lanegan yet an airy tenderness like Dry The River's Peter Liddle.

All things considered "Present Tense" is a record that can get you instantly interested in Wild Beasts, yet will probably keep you working at appreciating all of its facets, simply because it seems preoccupied with a grander, yet vaguer ambition than directly engaging you as a listener. It needs you to slow down the beat of your life to fall in lockstep with its patient pace, meaning that for many it could probably end up as highly atmospheric background music, while others might just think back to its many nooks and crannies when the time comes to account for the most striking listens of the year. Personally I probably have a foot in each camp, not entirely blown over yet certainly awakened and appetized to the existence of Thorpe and his fellow Beasts.


Download: Wanderlust, Daughters, Past Perfect
For The Fans Of: Veto, The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club, Chapel Club
Listen: facebook.com/wildbeasts

Release Date 24.02.2014

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