A constant threat of change makes this lovely long-player so very enticing.
Martin Aston 2011
If this south London trio’s name suggests we play the name game, then words beginning with L that suit them include "languid", "limpid", "luminous" and, indeed, "Low". Anyone bewitched by the blissful, woozy and yet edgy sad-core of that Duluth, Minnesota trio will want to hear this debut album, though Something Beginning With L possess a different kind of fragile tension, fuzzier and sweeter. On top, they have two female singer/guitarists in Lucy Parnell and Jen Macro (both current members of Graham Coxon’s Power Ensemble), creating a more sinewy, cross-stitched dynamic. Whirring synths (played by bassist Jon Clayton) are also involved. Plus SBWL occasionally find third gear (though not fourth). Imagine a quieter, dreamier Throwing Muses as much as Low.
The opening Poster Croc nails all the above in 139 seconds. Contrary to the usual drawn-out nature of this musical gene pool, SBWL songs are unusually lean. Only one track, 73, breaks the four-and-a-half minutes barrier, and Sixers lasts a precious 45 seconds. But even in short bursts, they hypnotise with stealthy calm, and occasionally they burst into flames, as on Sound. It’s one of three tracks to feature PJ Harvey/Anna Calvi drummer/producer Rob Ellis, one of five guest sticksmen here. Ellis drives the rockiest passages, such as the virtual pop of Say, while Mean slowly builds from acoustic lulling and thrumming to a percussive throb, complete with anguished, chanted vocals. It’s the constant threat of change, tied to the trio’s zoned-out mood, which makes Beautiful Ground so enticing.
After the uncomplicated charm of Overcoat and Unwittingly Beautiful – where electronic beats push SBWL toward a kind of trip hop – 73 takes the album out on a meandering, and largely improvised, high. Like its fellow bookend Poster Croc, 73 gathers up SBWL’s array of sound tics and manoeuvres; it ebbs and flows, pulses and caresses over beautiful ground. If this sounds like ‘shoegaze’ or ‘dream-pop’ – and several SBWL reviews have taken this predictable course – don’t take any notice. For starters, neither term begins with L, and also, it sells short this laudable, lethally lovely long-player.