Friday, 13 September 2013

REVIEW: Strumpets - 'Rubies And Ruffians' (Jezus Factory Records)

The second album from Antwerp based "psychedelic dadaist pop" foursome Strumpets is one of those weird records that may be difficult to get your head around initially, but proves rather interesting during the course of repeated plays. It holds back, occasionally offering brief helpings of melody before throwing you off the trail by changing shape and form.

Their backgrounds in extreme avant garde noise art mean that a group like this probably aren't capable of a completely straight forward set of songs that follow the usual conventions, but that isn't to say that there aren't moments of skewed pop brilliance. The sensual haze of the opening ‘Tamara’ is a nice indication of what’s to come, haunted West Coast vibes breaking into a beautiful Brian Wilson-esque burst of sunshine pop. A harmoniously psychedelic track that ends with some gloriously sensual guitars, it provides one of the record’s undeniable highlights. Following it ‘Hollow Dusty Hall’ is made of heavier stuff, but transforms into a completely different song in the middle, while on the creeping ‘Alas Descartes’ a desolate Pink Floyd-like ambience is balanced with sludgy, snarling guitars. The somewhat downbeat title track is one of the more straightforward things here, growing slowly with lazed, dusty beats before the hushed, sorrowful first half of ‘Centurial Jinx’ makes way for uplifting joy at about 1 minute 30 seconds in, providing the second of the LP’s finest moments. Another one comes with ‘Mad In Ivory’, blessed with the addition of shimmering guitar lines and bright harmonies. As the vocals begin to turn into an acquired taste, the untidy Eastern flavoured ‘Gargantuan Lasting Love’ fares less well, but luckily the wondrously melancholic ‘Kinetic Twins’ delivers something magical that’s melodically stronger and considerably more focused than the majority of ‘Rubies And Ruffians’.

Following the satisfying, shadowy surf vibes of ‘Without Brakes’ and the gentle Super Furry Animals-recalling ballad ‘Void Love’, the closing ‘The Agent Of Her Heart’ is another good representation of their dream-pop meets prog, shifting from delicate jazz territory into a surreal space-rock climax that ends things on an interesting note. Some of the ideas stick very well, others don’t, suggesting that it takes patience and an attentive ear to be able to feel the impact of this music and to understand what it is that Strumpets are trying to achieve. 6.9/10

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