Monday, 20 September 2010

Abe Vigoda - Crush [Bella Union]

The odd-but-effective ‘tropical punk’ tag couldn’t have fitted Abe Vigoda’s last album, 2008’s Skeleton, any better: it was a humid, sticky morass of delay-drenched noise, wrapped in glistening melodic tendrils that seemed to recede almost as soon as they became fully audible. That it was still possible to detect a keen pop suss in there somewhere - buried deep beneath the foggy surface - was largely testament to a skilful synthesis of influences. Although that record still retained very obvious ties to the lo-fi punk thrash of their LA contemporaries No Age and HEALTH, the spidery guitar figures that skated across its surface betrayed a soft spot for the luminous glow of Disintegration-era Cure.

So when the follow-up Crush swoons onto the stereo, all crystal shards of synth and reverb-heavy drum hits, it’s immediately obvious that the legacy of the eighties has further wormed its way into Abe Vigoda’s sonic arsenal. Opener ‘Sequins’ evokes a sort of muted glamour, Michael Vidal’s vocals taking on an affected, Anglophile edge largely absent before, and the slo-mo pulse of ‘Repeating Angel’ is gloriously sulky, adding hints of grey to their usual palette of aquamarine and deep orange. It’s initially a slight shock to hear the sheer exuberance that marked their earlier music toned down slightly in favour of a more measured – though no less passionate – equivalent; the first couple of listens leave a slightly placeless feel, as though they’ve begun travelling down a new path but haven’t quite reached a solid destination yet. It becomes increasingly apparent with repeated listens, though, that Crush shares the same complexity and depth as its predecessor – it just takes a little longer to sink in. ‘Dream Of My Love (Chasing After You)’ cruises along at a brisk dancefloor pace before exploding in a whirl of hyperchromatic guitar tone, and ‘November’ operates as a kind of bridge between their early and late music, shifting gears as rapidly as anything on Skeleton but with far greater sophistication.

Still, while there’s no lack of the old Abe Vigoda on Crush, its finest moments come when they begin to explore new regions entirely. The album’s final three songs make for a fearsome triptych, both a snapshot of the band now and a hopeful indicator of directions they might take next. ‘To Tears’ is a shimmering slice of glam-pop, Vidal throwing dramatic shapes over an instrumental background that constantly shifts like a slowly rotated kaleidoscope. Closer ‘We Have To Mask’ is a slo-mo electronic curveball that recalls Bowie, but the album’s absolute highlight is ‘Beverly Slope’, which drowns The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ in an ocean of globally-warmed floodwater. Vocals drift quietly through the murk, leaving rippling trails in their wake, but trebly squalls of guitar threaten to overwhelm them entirely throughout; the result seems far shorter than its three-minute runtime. It’s at moments like these that Crush makes most sense, mutating the chaotic thrash of their earlier music into a smoother but no less mind-altering form. ‘Tropical post-punk’, perhaps.

Words : Rory Gibb

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