By Phil Scarisbrick
Entering the world of Drab City can be quite a disconcerting proposition on the face of it. The sleeve for their debut release on Bella Union, Good Songs For Bad People, looks like a cartoonish interpretation of Picasso’s haunting masterpiece, Guernica. This imagery is a visual peek at the warped, yet beautiful sonic journey enclosed within. The opening instrumental, Entering Drab City, is punctuated by deep inhales, as oft-kilter sounds resonate around each other, never quite finding a place to land. As it fades away into Working For The Men, you really do feel like you are entering a different world.
The half hour or so access that we’re afforded to this otherness is a diverse array of songs that are as beautiful as they are interesting. Hand On My Pocket combines a rumbling hip-hop-esque bassline with a myriad of electronica to drive along an alluring vocal that tells a tale of a youth defined by destitution. Devil Doll continues in a similar vein, with a dreamy, wandering vocal melody trying to make sense of the place it occupies. Like any dream state, the journey is unpredictable and out of your control, so you just have to enjoy the ride.
Troubled Girl’s spoken word opening sits on top of a frenetic Spanish guitar line before settling down into a track that has elements of Gwenno’s Le Kov in its make-up. Taking a left turn into wah-wah guitar segue, it manages to keep you transfixed. Live Free And Die When It’s Cool sees a change in vocalist, and a more stripped back soundtrack. The ragged drum and bass parts battle for supremecy in the mix as the vocal swells about on top, breaking away into an instrumental that instils an extra level of jeopardy, it is hard not to be drawn in even further.
It is hard to define exactly what you’ve just listened to once it is all over. Dream-pop is a term that seems to be thrown at nearly every act with a Micro-Korg and reverb pedal, but this album really does feel like you’ve disconnected from the real world and entered a dream-like state. You can never quite decipher the intended meaning of what is being sung, or pin down where a song sits structurally, and that totally feels like the point. It is the gift of escapism. Like a David Lynch film, or a Kafka novel, you’re transported into a world without a guide, and it is utterly exhilarating.
Secret Meeting score: 83
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