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Blank Realm
Illegals In Heaven David Bennun , September 7th, 2015 10:24

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I knew nothing about Blank Realm before I shunted their disc into the CD tray and pressed play. Forty-odd minutes later, I know that they do nothing I haven't heard before, but I find them novel and invigorating and want to keep on listening.

I've since discovered they're from Brisbane, Australia (rather than any other Brisbane you may know of; I expect America has a couple), they're a four-piece, three of whom are siblings, and although this isn't their first album, it is the first thing they've done in a studio.

You'd think it was recorded in their front room. I like that about it too. Not that there's any particular virtue in making the least of your resources. Just that the studio has robbed it of none of its claustrophobic, tumbledown immediacy. It's a short, strange trip of a garage-psych album, deceptively raw-fingered, possessed of unexpected subtleties, brimming with that heady, knowing other-worldliness you used to get from Black Lips. There are bits that sound like Mazzy Star, and bits that sound like the Bunnymen. Bits that are reminiscent of New Wave. Bits that are Power Pop. It's like devouring a bagful of dolly mixture made with tin foil and psilocybin.

What it also has is songs. Cracking ones. If it were simply a whirligig of noise, ideas and moods, that would be fun enough, and that's certainly the most I would have expected when the hectic opener 'No Views' catapulted itself into the fray. But this lot can write a bit - or construct, at any rate; I don't know their process and don't much care. I'm just jollied along by the results.

Beneath the urgency, the caterwauling, the surges and the collisions, there are tunes - so well disguised by the drawling, often atonal vocals, that you approximate rather than discern them - and intriguing lyrical phrases that drift through your brainpan, lodge in dusty corners and sidle out later to crawl unbidden across your consciousness. I'm not saying, for instance, that the slumberous, spooky 'Dream Date' is intended to be as sinister as it feels - it might just be an embellished doodle - but it really is creepy as hell. This, of course, is a splendid thing. Likewise, 'Gold' (the Mazzy Star-ish one, although it's just as close to 'Cowboy Junkies') is genuinely haunting, in that you feel its presence when it's no longer there.

Even the title seems right. It's an album that's clambered over barbed wire to reach an exalted domain where it's not supposed to be. I don't know quite why I like it so much more than all the current things it resembles, but that's the nature of being taken with something, and taken with it I am.

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Sep 7, 2015 11:01am

This is pretty half-arsed by high standards of The Quietus.

The band have had several albums, the last two reviewed in The Guardian for christ sakes so hardly an unknown act.
It would have been interesting to read a review from someone at least slightly familiar with their previous work as their development from trashy experimental act to refined Flying Nun-popstars has been one of the more interesting band arcs of recent years.

The only thing I get from this is the fear that one of thair songs may sound like the fucking Cowboy Junkies

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No Souvenirs
Sep 7, 2015 11:39am

I agree it could have been nice to read a review from someone a bit more familiar with the band, but I like reading the impressions of someone just hearing it for the first time. I downloaded this when it leaked (I will buy it!) and it's totally gotten under my skin, has the potential to become a modern classic even, and I almost never say that about anything!

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Queen Jane Approx
Sep 8, 2015 2:40am

Nice review, but I disagree that there is nothing original on this album. Yes, they sound at different points like many different, revered acts from the record collector lore, but having followed them since their record on Not Not Fun, I can say this bands take on classic rock tropes is totally unique.

I would say they are like a modern Guided by Voices, pillaging the halls of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and reanimating what was museumified. Stealing from unfashionable sources like the Who or XTC. Never sacrificing fidelity for feeling. (I know this is their first studio album apparently, but it doesn't really sound like it).

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