Manchester trio’s second set captures their key elements in full colour.
Noel Gardner 2013
While still a fair distance from the shores of the oxymoronic "indie mainstream", and by no means crafting uniform, easily accessible rock nuggets, the Mazes of 2013 have certainly tidied themselves up compared to their earliest ventures three or so years ago.
Debuting in 2009 with a 7” single on Sex Is Disgusting Records – an almost self-parodying name for a bedroom indie label – a flurry of similar releases followed, generally suggesting a love for winsome melody but obstinate in their lo-fi production values and general lack of preciousness.
Signing to the larger indie FatCat for 2011 debut album A Thousand Heys served them well. It seemed to encourage them to focus their passions and abilities – for semi-garagey jangle-pop, hazy post-punk and blissful periods of repetition – with a long-player in mind.
Ores & Minerals, its follow-up, is arguably less direct, but more fully realised, and likely more enduring. The decision to produce it themselves may have been as much about finances as control, but they’ve captured their key elements in full colour.
The exacting chime of Jack Cooper’s guitar drives songs like seven-minute opener Bodies, Skulking and the title track – three examples of their Krautrock influence, echoing Neu! or La Dusseldorf but feeding them through an indie-scuzz filter.
Like most of the bands suggested as Mazes’ influences in the past – Guided by Voices, Pavement, New Zealand indie cultists The Clean – the trio’s love of legit oldies-bin rock seems genuine. Dan Higgs Particle’s title is a dubious pun hailing the former frontman of US rock eccentrics Lungfish, and bears a loose resemblance thanks to its gnarly, scrawly guitars.
Although these terms are relative, the midsection of Ores & Minerals is probably most suggestive of indie orthodoxy. Afforded a re-recording, Sucker Punched and Delancey Essex could have held their own in a mid-90s indie arena that made successes of, say, Teenage Fanclub.
A couple of concessions to boombox-recorded obscurantism (gloopy instrumental Significant Bullet; detuned piano’n’field recording non-extravaganza Leominster) serve to confirm that Mazes aren’t eyeing a commercial breakthrough too hungrily yet. There remains plenty to love about this second album, though.