M.I.A.-feted Brooklyn duo unveils a noisily addictive debut album.
Louis Pattison 2010
Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss, the him and the her behind new M.I.A.-feted Brooklyn sensation Sleigh Bells, hail from two pretty distant areas on the musical map. He learned his chops playing guitar in Miami metalcore ragers Poison the Well. She, meanwhile, got her break playing in a teen pop band called Rubyblue.
Curiously, though, you can hear the influence of both extremes in their debut album Treats. Much like Crystal Castles, this is a group that specialises in mixing up the sweet and the nasty. Electronic beats drop like cartoon anvils, guitars and synths are slathered in distortion, and the mix sometimes appears to have been plotted in order to introduce your ears to the concept of whiplash. But when Krauss isn’t dispensing stern, M.I.A.-style raps, she’s often to be found cooing in sweet baby-doll sing-song, and when all the bombast and distortion falls away, you realise that at their heart, Sleigh Bells have a knack for writing lovelorn fuzz-pop songs. “I wanna know what’s good for you / You wanna know what’s good for me,” Krauss implores on Run The Heart.
A bewildering but fun bedlam seems to be their default setting, if the first half-dozen or so tracks are anything to go by. Riot Rhythm and Infinity Guitars rock out in a frenzy of angular riffs and chundering beats. This is fun enough, but could also get old over the full-length, so it’s to their credit that this is the point that Sleigh Bells switch up their style. The peculiarly beautiful Rachel feels almost tailor-made to soundtrack a Sofia Coppola film, a blend of chopped-up synths and yearning vocals that recall those of My Bloody Valentine’s Bilinda Butcher.
It’s the following Rill Rill that might just be the duo’s most endearing track, though. It’s a sassy, country-tinged guitar song that finds Krauss singing about “wondering what your boyfriend thinks about your braces”. It won’t be Sleigh Bells’ signature song, and rightly so – it’s the sonic mayhem that’ll get them noticed. But like Crystal Castles before them, it suggests they’ve got content beyond the chaos.
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