Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Sunlamp Show EP - The Aliens

Further evidence, if any were needed, that probably the most influential man in music at the moment is Brian Wilson. There is a giddying amount of baroque/chamber/sun-drenched music at the moment, all informed by The Beach Boys pop sensibilities. Some artists spread their wings further and soak up different influences, but a lot of the joy and sheer unadulterated bliss that can be found on albums released this year such as Merriweather Post Pavilion and Veckatimest can be attributed to Wilson.

The Aliens are a band who understand the obsessive nature of the creation of music better than most. Having spent the last decade making music with The Beta Band, John MacLean and Robin Jones joined founding member Gordon Anderson (he left The Beta Band after bouts of psychiatric illness), who had himself made furtive and occasional solo albums as The Lone Pigeon and began noodling away on their debut. Small wonder then that Wilson would hold such sway and influence on their work.

Commencing with clipped piano and a rolling drumbeat, 'Sunlamp Show' begins to weave its summery magic. Much of The Aliens work hinges on delirium, a near hysterical acceptance of music's tangential and tumultuous offerings. But unfortunately 'Sunlamp Show' often ventures into pastiche, with the hint of theremin and Anderson's McCartney-esque vocal cadences the chief culprits. Not that this is necessarily always a bad thing, but it is an affliction which has affected their short career, with far too much time given over disparate and derivative influences. 'Pernickitty Jack', the only new song on offer, is a wailing garage track smothered in distortion and MacLean's dirty organ runs, but it sounds at times like The Beta Band covering The Libertines and at nearly eight minutes it almost outstays its welcome.

Parent album Luna was a more psychedelic affair, and it is with this in mind that you should approach the three remixes available. The first remix of 'Sunlamp Show' by Disco Bloodbath reconfigures it into a baggy, acid-tinged affair that literally reeks of 1992. Now that shouldn't really work, and I should find the funky piano riff that kicks in around the five minute mark horrendously naff and yet...And yet it really works. It teases out the trio's instinctive knack for a groove and a beat. The remix by Manmouse (MacLean's pseudonym) is is a darker work, that adds glitch and subtle electronica to the song's closing chords. Again the focus is on groove and rhythm and showcases their instinctive grasp of how to create this. The Roman Noise (Robin Jones' alter ego) remix of 'Boats' re-imagines the song as a somnabulant, downbeat song coloured with textured vocals amongst the descending chords before its phased outro. A luxurious, spatial and beautiful track that adds lustre and gloss to the original without ever becoming fully divorced from it.

As with most EP releases it has the feel of an inbetween effort, a document of a band not content to stand still and one that is keen to remodel and reference their own material. With one album track, three remixes and one new song The Sunlamp Show EP is a slight release and perhaps not essential unless you're an Aliens completist, but has moments of clarity and beauty that compensate for the band's occasional lack of self-constraint.

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