Between the plaintive vocals and evocative piano of Euan McMeeken and the distorted soundscapes of guitarist Matthew Collings, which combine forces under the name of Graveyard Tapes, there is a perplexing magic. Hailing from the fair city of Edinburgh, they have that quietly triumphant, slightly depressing, poetic and thoughtful Scottish joie de vivre. The imagery is apocalyptically epic, yet there is a lightness to the album, a vulnerability in the vocals and an ineffable fragility in the ramshackle, organic percussion and brooding piano-based instrumentals outlined by the creaks and groans of analog instrumentation, like it all might crumble into dust at any moment, but their indomitable spirit keeps their corporeal form together.
The style is decidedly more uptempo than their 2013 debut, Our Sound is Our Wound. The opening track, possibly the brightest of the bunch, “Flicker” features the soothing cello of William Ryan Fritch (Vieo Abiungo, Death Blues Ensemble), as well as dynamic percussion and driving guitar, peaking with a repeating hook (“Raise Me Up”) that perfectly suits what the music is doing.
For the most part, though, there is an uneasiness in this album’s catharsis. “Exit Ghosts” sits nervously on the edge of loneliness, a thousand voices scream out without you on “Sometimes the Sun Doesn’t Want to be Photographed,” and “Ruins” fall from the sky above as that track unfolds, with McMeeken’s broken vocals modulated in an alien fashion amidst a moaning Theremin-esque lead. There is a thump and static that pulses through “Could You Really Kill?” as if a heart determined to stay beating, while the prepared piano on “Death Rattle” seems to embody the titular role.
The whole album seems to breathe, with an improvisatory vibe runs throughout, thanks to extensive collaborations with Ben Chatwin (a.k.a. Talvihorros). Clearly indebted to Radiohead, this is like the dark side of the ∆ (alt-j), where the Ballboy plays, except better than any such superficial comparison could hint toward. It is its own thing, completely mesmerizing. Graveyard Tapes have found their true voice in White Rooms.
PopMatters is proud to premiere the stream of White Rooms below.
The album’s physical release via Lost Tribe is set for November 4th.
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