UK label Upset The Rhythm have had a stellar year of releases in 2020.
Now the go to label for the cream of the Australian crop, The Green Child’s “Shimmering Basset” is the final instalment from the label this year. Releases have ranged from the taught post punk of Vintage Crop and Es through the esoteric beauty of Sleeper & Snake. We’ve delighted in the abstract rubber no-wave of Handle and whacky joy of Naked Roommate.
Now it’s time for something more gentle, dreamy and beautiful, as the duo (Raven Mahon and Mikey Young) return with their sophomore release.
With the artwork reminiscent of something you might find on a Captain Beefheart cover I kept misreading this as “Shimmering Beast”; a title that still wouldn’t be out of place!
“Fashion Light” kicks off with an elasticated, almost comical bass line. It’s reminiscent of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” but that’s where the comparison ends. This is soon engulfed by Mahon’s dreamy vocals, electronic drums, washy guitars and drawn out synth chords. The vintage synths and drums lend 80s sounds which are balanced with futuristic spaciness. The addition of live drum fills adds further excitement and texture.
The Green Child go straight for the jugular with the tight pop of “Low Desk : High Shelf”. The floaty, Broadcasty vocal melody, direct drums and catchy synth hooks are backed up by distant atmospherics. They even chuck in a cheeky guitar solo at the end and it doesn’t sound out of place!
They take a dreamier approach (funnily enough…) on “Dreamcom”. A droney synth is broken by beautifully delayed guitar, bossanova-ish drums and percussive synths. It’s delicately crafted with a very satisfying bass groove and hypnotic, with a melody akin to a dreamier Stereolab.
This sets up the lolloping guitar stomp of “Tony Bandana” perfectly.
Following the dream-state that came before, this refreshes the ear and adds another dynamic. It has a jarring arrangement, like two songs spliced together. The straight forward 4/4 live drums (provided by Shaun Gionis) are countered with an off kilter guitar line. It has hints of the wonderful Primo! who are, of course, also on Upset The Rhythm. The sudden, spritely chorus provides an interesting shift into paisley pop. It’s gorgeously constructed, the way this catches the ear by surprise but melts back into the verses.
An unsettling, panning, percussive rattle on “Health Farm” consumes a minimal synth and gentle, pulsing drum beat. Mahon’s vocals and vibraphone-like synth twinkles float beautifully over the top. Listen out for the wobbly synth solo. It’s real aural candy!
“Witness” opens with a strange, almost randomly arpeggiating synth. This creates an interesting groove (almost like Queen’s ‘Radio Gaga’) allowing the drums to subtly scatter around. It’s counterbalanced by Young Marble Giants minimalism, little flourishes of weirdness and the ever-beautiful wispy vocal harmonies.
There are so many interesting and subtle sonic variations on this album.
This comes via the bizarre sounding bass line and crystal pure synths on “Smart Clothes”. There are, perhaps, slight hints of Vashti Bunyan and, more so, of Clementine March in the vocal melody. This is perhaps the most straight forward song on the album in it’s structure and it’s utterly hypnotic for it. The harmonised guitars about two thirds of the way through are majestic.
Just when you think you’ve heard everything they might have to give, “The Installation” offers up a saxophone saturated in reverb, which could have been overly cheesy but works for them here. It marries nicely with the cute synth hook and sparse bass groove.
“Resurrection” is perhaps the most affecting song on ‘Shimmering Basset’. Chock full of creeping atmospherics, retro guitar chords and longing vocal sections, each verse is intersected by a great pop hook. There’s a Mazzy Star quality to it.
The final track, “Double Lines”, fools us into thinking it’s going to be an instrumental. Seemingly focussed on an oscillating synth intro and cavernous ambience, drones build and a drum beat like popping bubbles slowly comes to the fore. Suddenly, this morphs into a bloopy ditty that eventually gives way to tranquil, drifting atmospherics.
Throughout this carefully crafted adventure in sound, the gorgeous melodies and playful hooks ensure this album succeeds where a lot of dream pop falls flat.
To be fair, though, there have been some fantastic synth pop and dream pop releases in 2020. ‘Shimmering Basset’ is right up there with the best of them. It’s lovingly constructed. The album flows beautifully and the introductions of new sounds are perfectly pitched throughout.
You may enjoy this if you like: Stereolab, Broadcast, Young Marble Giants, Winter