Album Reviews

Aias – A La Piscina

(Captured Tracks) UK release date: 4 October 2010

Aias - A La Piscina Must not mention Eurovision. Must not mention Eurotrash. Must not make condescending references to continental pop culture just because an album from the mainland pokes its perky little head above the endless wave of synth-gorged UK / US indie.

So what if Aias sound a little twee against the draconian fuzz of contemporary indie? There’s something fresh about the classic – the C86 lo-fi, and the heart-on-sleeve, piping vocals of Gaia Bihr. So what if a Barcelona threesome want to sing in their native Catalan? Ditching English worked for Sigur Rós (if not necessarily for Jónsi) and even Celine Dion slips into French occasionally (there are though, as might be clear, few other trailblazers to reference). So what if much of A La Piscina would be a perfect backing track for the ridiculous, drawling franglais of Antoine de Caunes? The kind of ditsy europop that plays while he’s cheekily describing esoteric Dutch erotica in the midst of a posse of scantily clad models who, gyrating awkwardly to its bouncy continental tempo, also rhythmically point phallic objects at Jean Paul Gaultier? (Damn, that would be Eurotrash sneaking in… But why not? It sounds lovely…)

Aias do have form. Their twinkling pop bursts (no track comes in over three minutes) might be jarringly at odds with much of the Anglo-American post-punk world, but they do slip comfortably in with another of 2010’s niche indie offerings. A La Piscina is garage pop very much born of the Best Coast school – lollipop-punk that’s doled out in adrenal shots of toe-tapping, guitar fuzz with a hazy, summery vocal. The unfussy bass and hi-hat beat of La Truita, and the simple low-fi fuzz of Una Setmana Sincera evoke The Vivian Girls while the floating naivety of the vocal – perfectly tinged with playful ire – brings both their peers to the fore: echoes of Cassie Ramone and Bethany Cosentino abound throughout. And in the sludgier moments, like the yearning Bali, and the thoughtful, down-tempo meanderings of Dues Pedres, there are twinges of the more straightline indie of Crystal Stilts or The Pains of Being Pure At Heart.

But don’t be fooled. Aias are unconcerned with transposing their native sound into any other musical locale or trend. A La Piscina is an album very much born of its setting – both Moto and Quan Tornis Demà conjure images of Barcelona (though contradictorily, one likens it to a racetrack while the other bemoans the slowness of the underground…) And the breezy warmth of Mon Inventant’s trumpets, and the unremitting cheeriness of its vocals, could only belong to a Catalan summer. Yet to admire the album’s indigenous charm is not to avoid its failings. Aias fail to capture the harder edges that frame the genre’s better offerings – the rawness of Dum Dum Girls; the groundswell of noise that always seems ready to burst from Best Coast. For all their low-fi lovability, these bands always effect a sneering punk undertow that ramps up the “garage”, and damps down the “pop”. Aias have the tunes, but not quite the grit, to be anything more than likeable.

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Aias – A La Piscina