Since the release of their debut album, 2011’s A Thousand Heys, London based trio Mazes have undergone significant upheaval, both in terms of numbers, going from a quartet to a trio and, most significantly, stylistically. A Thousand Heys was a pleasantly engaging collection of rough hewn, melodic guitar pop but since then they have embarked upon artier and more experimental course that makes second album Ores & Minerals a far more fulfilling listen.
This album is the work of a markedly different band. A Thousand Heys’ exuberantly youthful pop rush is eschewed completely in favour of insidious textured art rock. The band’s sonic palette has been expanded to excellent effect. From excellent opener Bodies’ nagging repetitive krautrock influenced voyage it is clear that we are dealing with a band re-energised with the invigorating power of sonic invention.
There is a distinctly beguiling early ’70s cosmic rock sound to this album’s meandering pieces of textured, multi-layered art rock. It can be heard in the harmonies and phased guitar solos of the title track and the slinky groove of Skulking. Ores & Minerals never rocks in a conventional sense. It is in fact a deeply un-rockist album, which is a refreshing contrast to their previous material, which tended to err towards reverential Pavement-like slacker pop.
Instead of being imbued with the power and spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, Ores & Minerals sees Mazes indulging themselves in groove and the joy of repetition. Almost every track here is characterised by a subtly insidious groove that becomes ever more alluring with every listen. Due care and attention is paid to every composite instrument and sound, every guitar strum, vocal harmony and drum loop, each part coalesces to a very impressive whole.
Singer and guitarist Jack Cooper says they’d intended to make something that people could move to. While nothing here could reasonably be called a dance floor filler, they have certainly succeeded in implementing a rhythmic pulse into their music, for Ores & Minerals nicely straddles the divide between body music and head music.
Perhaps the best insistence of Mazes’ enhanced compositional skills comes in the form of two short instrumentals that point towards an interesting new direction for the group. Significant Bullet is simply a dream, a gorgeous piece of ambient foggy noise, it is a sonic lullaby that allows you to drift away in quiet reverie. Leominster is even more intriguing, here off kilter dolorous piano twinkles away before tailing off into an audio sample of what appears to be some sort of religious sermon.
Not everything here works immediately, and these songs certainly take time to truly sink in. Anyone looking for cheap pop thrills will be left frustrated. But there is a copious amount of melody and pop nous present. Rather, it is subtly hidden.
Ores & Minerals is an admirable progression from a UK band that is not content to engage in referential rehashing of age-old influences. It is the work of a daring group of young men who are experimenting with their sound and exploring every facet of their musical knowledge. Mazes are forging a distinct path from their peers and their second record offers rich rewards for like minds who wish to join them.