Thunderclap Spring is an album designed to cause jealousy. Self-recorded in Australia, London and Japan, Pascal Babare’s debut is a massively accomplished piece of work. As he’s only 19, gifted, been to interesting places and has released one of the best albums of the year, it’s only fair to send a little jealousy his way.
Mixing straight-up folk with elements of shoegaze, post-rock and occasional classical touches Babare has come up with a heady mix. For the most part it’s a woozy affair, with his gentle vocals creating a haze in which it’s easy to get lost.
Elise, We Are Vikings starts things in a sweetly summery fashion with some hiss that sounds like rain, twisting around delicate guitar. Babare’s vocals are suitably upbeat, with sweet harmonies dancing around the bones of the song.� Along with Cracks The Head, it’s the material most obviously influenced by traditional Folk and the West Coast hippy sound of the ’60s.
The military drum pattern that hauls along the languid strum of Golden Vulture is a nice touch, juxtaposing restraint and freedom in one handy random rhythm pattern. Like Cracks The Head there are some giddy vocal harmonies here that could well be crafted from sunbeams. The only downside is that, at around two minutes each, both these songs flit away before it’s possible to get a full grasp on them.
Ceremony is a cover of the Joy Division/New Order track. Given its origins it’s the song most likely to garner attention. The abrasive nature of the original has been stripped away, replaced with an opiate warmth that envelops everything from Babare’s drowsy vocal inflection to the thrum of the acoustic guitars. In Babare’s hands Ceremony sounds achingly beautiful. It may be a crime to suggest it, but this version is superior to the original by a considerable distance.
Having embraced the chill of Ian Curtis’ lyrics and wrapped them in cotton wool and insulating foam, Babare continues to move further away from the summery Folk that opens the album, into far darker territory. Some Woods, Somewhere is a pastoral drone liberally sprinkled with bleak strings and military drums once again. ‘Funereal’ would sum it up perfectly.
Elsewhere it’s slightly less bleak but Babare retains a general air of sedation, and various harmony lines are augmented with rumbles and noise. When wind blows across an open microphone, the rumble adds to the timbre and the authenticity of the song – it’s an inspired touch. His attention to detail is impressive but it’s Babare’s way with melodies and harmonies that makes this such an exciting record.
Even when he writes instrumentals he’s not self-indulgent. The post-rock/folk (post-frock?) of Sweet Bees Brother Bear rises and falls nicely utilising feedback, and swelling strings to entice gently and tug at emotions. It underlines that Thunderclap Spring is a stunning debut from an exciting talent.