Chvrches had an event on their hands when they released their debut LP The Bones of What You Believe in 2013. It was, and remains, a thoroughly infectious nugget of ear-sugar synth pop so goddamn good it transcended the trappings and limitations of the subgenre. Even with just the shimmering, layered gems of “Gun”, “Recover”, “Lungs”, and of course “The Mother We Share”, the record would have ranked on numerous year-end best-of lists. It was a guilty pleasure that didn’t elicit any guilt from your enjoyment of it. In its shadow, the Scottish trio had a daunting task with whatever followup they’d eventually serve.
A cynic might then view their new EP Under the Tide as a deliberate attempt to disappoint. It is as proportionately mediocre as the previous LP was stellar, a fact that can’t help but baffle. Comprising four remixed songs off The Bones of What You Believe and “Strong Hand” — an extra track on several iterations of the LP — it is a phoned-in affair. To be fair, though, it is a Black Friday release meant strictly as a fan bonus, rather than a grand successor. In this light, it’s hard to fault Chvrches too hard.
The EP opens with the static crackle of the eponymous cut’s single edit, growing with cylindrical synths and tempered dance beats. It’s more austere than its LP iteration and certainly not as enjoyable. “Recover” (KDA Remix) gets a tad more interesting, having an intriguing rhythm, somewhat crystalline and evocative of a Latin lounge. Underplayed as it is, it gets narcoleptic after a while and Lauren Mayberry’s watery halting vocals are curious but not captivating. The quieter and atmospheric “Strong Hand” is the most engaging number, largely due to an intro that starts void of bluster, then unexpectedly erupts with a shockwave of synth blasts. The Alucard Session remixes of “The Mother We Share” and “Gun” close the mini record on comparatively more alluring notes. Both are more fragile and less immediately poppy, the former bearing some pained restraint and the latter steeped in a somber aura with looped electronic hazes that swell and unfurl throughout its duration. In short, the trend that runs through the EP is one of compelling listeners to go back to the songs’ original mixes. Maybe it’s just a souvenir for fans, but it’s not one destined to garner more than the obligatory couple spins before The Bones of What You Believe replaces it in your speakers.