The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


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

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.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.