by Chris Hatch
On their self-titled debut, Van Houten shun the grey Yorkshire skies of their native Leeds and opt instead for laid back forays into gravity-defying US indie.
Taking cues from the likes of Ducktails, Horsebeach and Childhood, the core of Van Houten’s sound comes in the way of dreamy, woozy pop – it’s all reverby guitars, celestial synths, and slacker-ish vocals. Cleverly though, Van Houten don’t pigeonhole themselves, and instead dabble in a wide range of sub-genres from outer-space electro soul, through to MGMT-style neo-psychedelia.
This willingness to experiment results in a record that has an almost mosaic-like effect. Lead single and album-opener, Moon, is a floaty, intergalactic love song, while the slow groove of Ever Changing Light takes on a retro-futuristic, neon-tinged feel with its atmospheric 80s style synths and alluringly smooth guitar. But despite their habit of veering off on aural tangents, Van Houten rarely sound disjointed or forced – instead their songs seem to seamlessly morph from one style to the next.
Ironically, it’s on their least experimental and most straightforward track that Van Houten really click – lead singer, Louis Sadler, ditches the languid, stoner lilt and finally opens up the vocals chords on Running Scared – a lovelorn, acoustic driven track that melds the swaggering tension of The Last Shadow Puppets with the yearning pop hooks of Blossoms.
There are times when Van Houten’s sonic meanderings can feel a little aimless, and they don’t always crack the big moments, but to take away their freedom to play about with genres would be to strip away half of their sound. As debuts go, there are more highs than lows, and with a little more focus, they have the potential to be the sci-fi, slacker pop band we never knew we needed.
Secret Meeting score: 76