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Virginia Wing
Measures Of Joy Simon Jay Catling , November 15th, 2014 12:21

Tabs are open and closed before twitching eyes, the mind gorging on each beatific hit of subsequent inane information, before the sickness resumes and it desperately probes the coarsely blinking screen for more. The chest tenses with anxiety, registering unanswered emails, texts, missed calls; pre-packaged, pre-cooked mush churns in the stomach, bought for time-saving convenience not taste, its chemicals imbuing a false sense of energy. 'The Body Is A Clear Place' posits Virginia Wing on Measures Of Joy's opening track, a desire more than a statement by a band simultaneously stimulated and oppressed, like millions of others, by a restless actuality amidst the hyper-accleration of modern existence.

As the header to a record that addresses themes of anxiety and isolation, 'The Body Is A Clear Place' is an effective one, acting as a jumping off point into an album that pushes hard against the dense criss-cross of suffocating life, to drift out into warped otherworld that retains an oddly reassuring calm. Measures Of Joy is characterised by a countless series of pirouetting swirls that spiral into contact with one another. Spectral drones shadow gently propulsive creeping bassline murmurs and other hidden elements that over time sharply reveal themselves. Take the second track, 'Estuary'; as it gently cascades downwards, a singular shimmering synth line uncouples itself from the ebb and flow to tiptoe in pursuit of Alice Merida Richards' languid stroll down from the track's 360 degree peak. In contrast, 'A Complex Outline' feels more fully-formed when shaking itself free from a glittering web of mechanical trills and looping vocal sighs.

Richards' vocal is captivating in its air of detachment, weighted enough to cut through the changing moods of the record, but warm enough to veer off into tangential emotional expression all of its own. The content dreaming of 'Estuary' soon turns into the more glottal urgency on 'World Contact' and blunt spoken word prophecy on 'Meshes'. Her lyrics are heavily-coded, but from the direct mantra-like insistence to "trust in your medicine" on 'Juniper', to the fluttering imagery of 'First And Fourth' – which centres around the rise and fall of kites at the beckoning of the wind – they hint at an inner search for a central peace, an attempt to reach the serenity that lies hidden at the core of the record.

But Virginia Wing are not from the sedate school of dream-pop escapism. It's just that, like Broadcast or Stereolab before them, they possess that same innate ability to seemingly pause time and space, so that that any number of stylistic meditations – in this case cyclical repeato-rock, synthetically-manipulated shoegaze, 90s-inspired hauntology – are applied amidst an overriding sense of uninterrupted still.

Then there's Sebastian Truskolaski's drumming, which provides an array of punctuating strokes and rhythmic pivots to cement a firm backbone to much of the album. The likes of 'World Contact', 'Read The Rules' and 'Marnie' bang with an impact far more close-up and instantaneous than the gradual immersion that rewards repeated listens of passages elsewhere, such as 'An Arabesque's' fuzzily amorphous emissions that clench round a solitary beating pulse. 'Meshes' is the perfect hybrid of both, darting around the undergrowth of the drifting fug, underpinned by a rigid motorik that holds its shape as volleys of guitar fire leave detritus in its path and Richards' calls out overhead. Over nearly six mesmerising minutes, it provides a hazy subversion of the traditional monochrome evocations of post-punk, a photo negative of an established form. The record ends on 'Gold Threads', which grates and gnaws like a series of cross-wired radio transmissions, Richards wordless as she arcs over the top of the scene before disappearing into the ether, leaving the listener to return to reality alone. It sums up Measures Of Joy briefly in two minutes, with dreamily-designed beauty and rugged tonal abrasion rubbing against each other to find a settled fit. It, like so much of the record, encapsulates a band that comes across as striving to break free from the mind-scrambling realities of the everyday, to find an unclouded state, a place where their bodies can feel clear.