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Beautify Junkyards
Cosmorama Will Salmon , January 13th, 2021 09:03

New on Ghost Box, Portugal's Beautify Junkyards release their fourth album, a rich and many-faceted thing, according to Will Salmon

A cosmorama, in case you were wondering, is an exhibitionthat uses lights, mirrors and different perspectives to display images from far-flung parts of the world. In the case of Portuguese band Beautify Junkyards' fourth album, it feels like an apt metaphor for a record that moves briskly between the different facets of their sound.

Where their 2018 release, The Invisible World Of Beautify Junkyards, had an earthy, folksy vibe, Cosmorama is grander in scope. It’s more sonically adventurous and features a clutch of cameos from like-minded artists. Cosmorama is the band’s second record on Ghost Box, a label that has grown steadily away from its nostalgic, UK-centric electronic roots to encompass a broader range of psych, folk, and spoken word, and is all the more interesting for it.

'Dupla Exposicao' is a hushed, cautious opener – all winding mellotron and hazy percussion, with singer João Branco Kyron muttering a cryptic recital of psychedelic imagery. “Curiouser and curiouser,” goes a sample from that old head touchstone, Alice In Wonderland (specifically the Jonathan Miller version, beloved of Broadcast’s Trish Keenan, whose influence and shared obsessions with vintage cinema, jazzy percussion and early electronics looms large here).

It's a subdued start, but the sunny and optimistic ‘Reverie’ quickly lifts the mood. “Feels like founding / something better,” whispers Smoke Cities’ Nina Miranda early on, sounding not unlike Vashti Bunyan fronting Vanishing Twin. She returns on the title track, an eerie piece with distinctly pagan undertones. Like many of the songs here, it’s replete with images of flowers, water, and the natural world. Such standard folky signifiers here undercut with a sense of indefinable unease.

Throughout, the band takes a bricolage approach, stitching together different tones and genres, while always sounding like themselves.‘A Garden By The Sea’ sounds like a processional, with Byron and newest band member Martinez duetting over a sombre march with a surprise tropicalia mid-section. ‘The Collector’ has a cool, slinky bossa nova thing going on and ‘Zodiak Klub’ nods to kosmiche, Danish fellow travellers Death And Vanilla, and – unexpectedly – The Who.

Best of all is ‘Deep Green’, which pairs a synthesised loop and jazzy percussion with dreamy vocals from Allison Brice of New York band Lake Ruth. There's echoes here of ‘Old Man Willow’, an acid folk obscurity by Elephant’s Memory (better known for backing Lennon and Ono in the early 70s), a record that feels like a key part of Beautify Junkyards' collective DNA.

It’s a strange, rewarding album, rich with depth and texture. There’s crepuscular gloom here, for sure, but also warmth and beauty. Released in the freezing darkness of January, Cosmorama nevertheless looks forward to spring.