Scots deliver moments of sombre beauty and the odd electric thrill.
Charles Ubaghs 2010-05-25
From the minute Win Butler and his Canadian comrades burst out of Montreal with the release of Funeral, music journalists have attempted to slap the phrase “The Next Aracade Fire” onto any band partial to an epic song. It’s a label that has yet to stick, but critics keep searching for what has become the indie holy grail.
Edinburgh’s Meursault are a recent recipient of the fleeting honour. Their debut, Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing with Tongues, was met with critical, if not entirely commercial, success thanks to a deft melding of pastoral folk, lo-fi electronics and the haunting ambience of band leader Neil Pennycook’s soaring vocals. The record may not have scaled the same vertigo-inducing heights as the aforementioned Canadians, but it left enough of a mark for it to be named one of the top 20 Scottish albums of the decade by Scottish culture magazine, The Skinny.
The band returns with follow-up LP All Creatures Will Make Merry, and those looking to make an Arcade Fire comparison this time around had best look elsewhere. This is a record that, at its best, erupts forth on Crank Resolutions and New Ruins with an unlikely but searing fusion of pulsing machine beats and lo-fi folk that wouldn’t feel out of place on a collection of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax’s famous field recordings.
This may read like a direction eerily reminiscent of Animal Collective’s embracing of folk and electronics over their lengthy career, but Pennycook and crew rarely ever push things to the feted Brooklyn band’s feverish level of experimentation. Instead, Meursault, over the span of this album, strap the static hum of their machines to a structured, straightforward framework constructed out of materials taken from a traditional folk template, one that recalls the like-minded strums of their neighbours in the King Creosote-led Fence Collective.
‘Folktronica’ isn’t a new idea, of course. Tunng and Adem have been toying with it to varying degrees of success for a number of years now. Meursualt may not be leading the charge into undiscovered terrain, then, but All Creatures Will Make Merry does prove them capable of putting their own singular stamp on the hybrid genre with moments of sombre beauty and the odd electric thrill.