Album Reviews

Blank Realm – Grassed Inn

(Fire) UK release date: 13 January 2014

Blank Realm - Grassed Inn Australian quartet Blank Realm have been compared to Talking Heads and Sonic Youth amongst others since emerging from the Brisbane art-psych rock scene as something more than just experimentalists. 2013’s Go Easy proved that there was far more to them than their earlier recordings had suggested, with more conventional song structures starting to break through from the cataclysmic cacophony of noise that their music had often descended into in the past.

Whilst there was still a strong sense of chaos for much of the previous release, tracks such as the eight-minute behemoth that is the brilliant Pendulum Swing proved that they were capable of creating masterfully mesmerising, persistent slices of synth-tinged psychedelic rock. Other efforts hinted at greater things to come, with some simplistic catchy hooks beginning to take shape as the band continued to evolve and learn their trade more thoroughly.

Largely a family affair based around the Spencer family (Daniel – vocals/drums, Sarah – synths/backing vocals, and Luke – bass) the band is completed by long time friend Luke Walsh on guitar. The family/friends have long been indulging in all sorts of arty escapades, but didn’t really move into the music field until their 20s, with the early experimentation being in keeping with a band finding their feet instrumentally, generally just creating a racket in the process.

One of the heavier tracks here opens proceedings – Back To The Flood – benefiting from a basic yet annoyingly catchy guitar line alongside some almost John Lydon-like vocal wailings. Falling Down The Stairs is built around a cheesy yet highly addictive synth line accompanied by acoustic guitar; the strange chorus of “who’s falling down the stairs tonight” is almost followed by a chaotic freeform fallout, yet they teeter on the brink without quite stepping over into the ways of old.

Similarly on Bulldozer Love, the band sound like they’re chomping at the bit to let it all go in true self-destruction fashion once more, but they hold it together to produce one of the most compelling tracks on the album. Another simple yet catchy guitar line drives the track along and despite the meagre chorus that simply repeats the song title over and over, the fuzzy instrumental passages and lengthy, repetitive nature of the song highlight where Blank Realm’s strengths lie. Uninspiring lyrical repetition can also be found on Reach You On The Phone, but it somehow doesn’t seem to matter, being entwined with much more satisfying musical interludes once again.

Pounding bass and quivery vocals introduce Violet Delivery as spacey, swirly synth noise and then an electronic drumbeat reminiscent of Krautrock (a main influence on the band) kick in to provide another highlight. A pedestrian, squelchy, up-and-down two-chord jangly electric guitar stomp then appears alongside some shimmering synths in the shape of slow burner Even The Score; it’s possibly the best that the album has to offer, vaguely resembling some monotonous Velvet Underground moments.

There is a fine line between catchiness and tedium on Grassed Inn, and the formula doesn’t always work. Bell Tower is a slow plod based around a rather simple and dull guitar line, and Baby Closes The Door uses some strange electronic noise alongside constant guitaring without really taking the song anywhere. But having reined in tendencies to run away with themselves in every direction, Blank Realm would appear to be on the brink of far wider recognition and acknowledgement, as their ability to produce normality continues to blossom nicely.

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Blank Realm – Grassed Inn