Formed in a bookshop, London quartet Smallgang are adept at penning morbid, reflective indie anthems. Like a more deliciously miserable Editors with a hell of a lot more noise, theirs is the sort of music that’s played by bands who want to sound moody with guitars.
That’s because Trespasses is also endlessly beautiful; in the same way British Sea Power can sing of sad insects and somehow make them the most stoic and beautiful artistic expressions, Leaves is the sound of longing amidst amber and suits sewn from dreams. Trespasses plays the lo-fi card well, and the result sounds live, real and unpolished. There’s an unabashed honesty to Smallgang.
Live, they’re undoubtedly one of the loudest, most inspiring bands around. Able to turn a venue into a rocket launch pad, fronted by down-staring, un-emotive, guitar stranglers, the energy of their live performance, in fairness, is nowhere near captured here. The bass never thunders as it can through a live sound system and for the clarity of the vocals that are sometimes lost to the music on stage, you’d rather have the vocals as the slight whisper they sometimes feel like in return for an impossibly loud wall of guitars burning through your ears.
There’s some great songwriting here too, though the absence of Marie-Celeste, from their self-released debut, is a sorely missed opportunity for a pop moment. Made In China repeats its chorus mantra over an ever-intensifying chord progression and Smallgang’s flux between intense and resigned is well measured and clinically executed. As Made in China’s riffs build only to plateau surprisingly for the verses and complex picking turns into a beautiful vocal bed in Arrows, it’s clear Smallgang know how to use timing and how to change the feel of a song, so that something initially as inaccessible as a Don Cabellero guitar line can be something warm and comforting.
Everything Smallgang do is an antithesis of what’s happening today. They play loudly but earnestly and think about how music weaves together. If Smallgang had a front man with arrogant bombast and a jaw line they would be ‘that band’ for the industry, but that isn’t what anyone wants. Trespasses has given us a most delicate noise along with poetically mumbled lullabies, an inspiring combination.