Certain labels have a canny knack of acting as a showcase for musical talent from a certain locale. Scotland’s alternative music scene has been well served by the shop front offered by Chemikal Underground, Factory thrust Manchester into the cultural limelight throughout the 1980s, while across the pond Motown and Detroit have, over the years, become synonymous with each other.
Over in mainland Europe, Labrador have been quietly doing a similar thing, releasing the best in Scandinavian (predominantly Swedish) alternative music, be it the fuzzy melodicism of The Radio Dept, exuberance of Suburban Kids With Biblical Names or pop classicism of Pelle Carlberg and Sambassadeur. Now, the label can add electronica to their roster thanks to Pallers, a Swedish duo who’ve sporadically worked together in such Labrador alumni as Club 8, The Legends and Acid House Kings.
Opening track Another Heaven manages to fit nicely between the minimalism of fellow Swedes The Knife and the atmospheric sounds of M83 – a slow burner that while it could be argued is unrepresentative of the melodicism displayed throughout the rest of the record nevertheless showcases its winsome and understated nature. The pop sensibilities afforded by Pallers become clear on the next two tracks, singles Humdrum and Come Rain, Come Sunshine. The pair of tracks share common musical stylings, with muscular and propulsive basslines and percussion leaving the way clear for fluid and sweeping melodies to complete the picture.
The album’s centrepiece is undoubtedly The Kiss, a Summer Camp-baiting slice of electronica that sounds like the soundtrack to an as-yet-unrealised John Hughes film that builds from a hushed beginning to all-out pop euphoria in five and a half minutes. Elsewhere the harmonious and accessible elements of Pallers’ cannon continue, with Wicked arguably being the closest Scandinavia has come to emulating a Saint Etienne track. But pop sensibility is but one feather in Pallers’ cap. The duo can also do haunting with equally deft prowess. This is evidenced particularly well on Wired and especially on seven-minute album closing slow burner Nights. Not that it’s perfect, mind. Incidental instrumentals Tropical Fishbowl and The Sound Of Silence add little to the record, and will have many hovering over the skip button.
While the duo themselves have called the music ‘depressing’, it’s a description that’s at once inaccurate and far too simplistic. Granted, there’s an element of melancholia, but it’s of a type that’s sweeping and near-majestic, never once straying into the territory marked self-pity. In that respect it’s similar to labelmates The Mary Onettes.
Overall, Sea Of Memories is a record that has a definite change of sound relative to what most fans of Labrador’s releases would come to expect from the label. Not that that reflects badly on it. Quite the reverse in fact. It’s an accomplished release which, while throwing the occasional nod to other artists of the same genre (M83, Saint Etienne), nonetheless maintains a sense of uniqueness and identity that remains prevalent throughout its duration. Proof indeed that good things come to those who wait.