Being in Berlin is a great experience at the best of times. Being in Berlin during the hottest days of summer is even better. But being in Berlin during summer whilst there’s a World Cup on is positively brilliant. It was in this glorious setting that Electrelane re- convened from a sabbatical to practice their German and discuss whether Frank Lampard and Steve Gerrard really can play in the same England team but most importantly, write songs for their fourth album ‘No Shouts, No Calls’. If it sounds like fun then it only requires a cursory listen to the music to realize that it most certainly was.
You see, our heroines have always had a reputation for being a bit dark, a touch sombre and liable to cause an involuntary stroke of the chin at certain moments. Formed during 1998 in the British seaside town of Brighton, Electrelane soon found they could make fantastic music without the aid of vocals and the massively ambitious debut Rock It To The Moon (2001) stands as a testament to that even now. Its majestic follow up ‘The Power Out’ (2004) managed to be more concise without losing their sense of adventure but it was with ‘Axes’ (2005) that the quartet’s experimentalism reached a natural and organic peak. Borne of improvisations, almost entirely instrumental and recorded all in one go, ‘Axes’ marked the end of Electrelane Mk 1 in an intricate body of music that most bands couldn’t emulate if they had detailed diagrams.
Now though, it’s time to reveal their new side and it bears about as much resemblance to ‘post-rock’ as a member of Mogwai does to a Calvin Klein model. “we wanted to write an album with more singing and lyrics this time, to do something a bit more personal” explains Susman. “A lot of the writing of the album was about capturing the mood and experience of being together in Berlin, feeling more positive than we might have done in the past.”
Whereas both the previous two albums were committed to tape at Steve Albini’s renowned Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago, the quartet decided to try something different by recording at The Key Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan this time out. From the first euphoric cymbal crashes in ‘The Greater Times’, there seems to be a new kind of light shining on Electrelane which remains strong throughout the album. Whether it’s because of the dainty guitar notes of ‘To The East’, the ebb-and-flow piano of ‘Saturday’ or the charmingly simplistic Ukulele strums on ‘Cut And Run’, there’s no doubt that this is an album inspired by warm emotions. Susman’s surprisingly honest and touchingly tender lyrics also attest to that time and time again but the willingness to push the envelope hasn’t left the band either. At times, ‘No Shouts, No Calls’ touches on the heaviest material they’ve written. For example, the furious, metallic riffing that Clarke slashes out of her guitar during ‘Between The Wolf And The Dog’ are unexpectedly violent but undeniably exciting whilst Gaze pounds the drums with a new found viciousness during ‘Five’ which frequently boils over with rhythmic intensity. But even these moments are executed with a playful heart rather than a perturbed one.
OK, so it might not be ‘pop’ music in the traditional, see-you-on- the-cover-of-Smash-Hits kinda way but this is how Susman, Clarke, Murray and Gaze envision it and as we all know, seeing/hearing the world through someone else eyes/ears is often the best way to broaden the mind. In that respect as well as many others, ‘No Shouts, No Calls’ is an album of enticingly irregular brilliance.
- Hardeep Phull (Brooklyn, New Year’s Day, 2007)