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Wilds Will Salmon , January 21st, 2022 10:00

After seven years away, Soundcarriers return with more exotica-tinged boot-fair futurism

We have Lodge 49 to thank for the existence of a new Soundcarriers album. The excellent – if little seen – comedy drama about a secretive esoteric order featured a precisely curated soundtrack attuned to showrunner Jim Gavin and music supervisor Tom Patterson’s own eclectic tastes. Broadcast, Beautify Junkyards, Lake Ruth, and other psychedelic, radiophonic, and library music revivalists all appeared, but none more so than this Nottingham four-piece, whose back catalogue was a near constant presence throughout the show's first season.

The band were on extended hiatus and scattered around different parts of the UK when a call from Patterson prompted them to start work on new material. Two tracks, ‘Driver’ and ‘At The Time’, were both recorded for the show’s second season and get their first wider release here. Opening track ‘Waves’ also has its origins in the show – it’s developed from an idea that was originally pitched as a potential series’ theme.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Wilds has such a cinematic quality to it. Despite having been recorded in various rural cottages, schools, and art galleries around the country, it sounds lush and sun-dappled, a heady blend of West Coast-influenced psych and folk.

What is a little surprising for anyone familiar with the band’s occasionally whimsical or baroque previous work (which included, on 2014’s Entropicalia, a twelve-minute groove narrated by Elijah Wood) is how full-blooded, even aggressive, it sounds. Clocking in at just nine songs and thirty-eight minutes, it finds the band at their most focussed, playing at full pelt to keep up with drummer Adam Cann. His percussion and Paul Isherwood’s bass, both high in the mix, drive the songs here. While their contemporaries Vanishing Twin have become more elusive, embellishing their recent Ookii Gekkou with playful jazzy abstractions, Soundcarriers have honed in on going fast and going hard.

‘Waves’ crashes in on a quartet of cymbal strikes before racing against insistent organ and flute melodies to a false finish and climactic drum solo. ‘Driver’ is propulsive pop with a subtle funkiness, while ‘At The Time’ adds a touch of Martin Denny exotica to the mix, with Leonore Wheatley and Dorian Conway coming off as lounge singers in some sub-aquatic realm. The duo’s lyrics are usually simple brief repeated snatches of phrases – “You fall back on yourself / you keep turning me roun”" on the relentless flute funk of ‘Falling Back’ – but their harmonies effortlessly invoke that late 60s sound, like Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee and Bert Jansch fronting Stereolab.

Quieter moments come with the shadowy pop of ‘All These Things’ and ‘Saturate’, a sweetly shimmering ballad that nods to The Ronettes, as Cann joins the long line of drummers to cheerfully nab Hal Blaine’s ‘Be My Baby’ beat. ‘Happens Too Soon’ is reflective, too, a solemn piano solo slowly giving way to Wheatley and Conway at their most dreamily imperious. It’s a lovely, quietly epic finale to the record.

Soundcarriers went away for seven years. In that gap the likes of Khruangbin, Kit Sebastian, Maston, and the aforementioned Vanishing Twin have all flourished. Wilds feels like a homecoming for a band that was doing the 60s-influenced, boot-fair futurist thing long before it was cool. What a treat to have them back.