A few years ago, on the release of their debut album A Dream Outside, London quartet Gengahr seemed poised to follow the likes of The Maccabees and Wolf Alice to mainstream success. And while the former have now split up, and Wolf Alice went onto conquer the United States and become soundtrack staples, life took a much quieter turn for Gengahr.
After touring that debut, the band pretty much immediately returned to the studio to record their follow-up, but soon ran into that age old problem, ‘second album syndrome’, and the first lot of sessions ended up being scrapped. Where Wildness Grows is the result of a rethink, and is proof that sometimes the best things are worth taking their time over.
For Gengahr’s second album is the sound of a band with much more confidence. Where A Dream Outside was nice enough, but pretty much indistinguishable from the rest of ‘young sensitive white guys with guitars’ model – a kind of Two Door Bombay Cinema Bicycle Club if you will – there seems to have been new layers added to the band’s sound now. There’s the sweeping melancholia of The Antlers to be heard, and the interplay between Felix Bushe’s affecting falsetto and John Victor’s surprisingly powerful guitar chords can, at times, be quietly thrilling.
Before Sunrise is a shimmery, summery delight with its elastic bassline reminiscent of Dutch Uncles‘ recent work, while is This How You Love (featuring Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell on vocals) is similarly light and breezy, almost crying out for those light summer evenings to provide a perfect soundtrack to. Yet it’s Carrion that gives a more impressive demonstration of how Gengahr’s sound has developed – a rushing, urgent number punctuated by great barrages of guitar noise from John Victor. Blind Truth has a similar power coursing through it, with Bushe singing that “the fucked-up things I do, are supposed to make you like me” over more guitar pyrotechnics from Victor.
Gengahr have perfected that yearning quality which they hinted at on their debut – probably the best example here is I’ll Be Waiting, a gorgeously nervy pop song with a chorus of “still in love with you, that’s alright I’ll be waiting, nothing I can do”. Much of it is down to Bushe’s voice which can quiver, soar and swoop with raw emotion. They’ve also not forgotten how to write some accessible tunes – Mallory already sounds like a summer hit in waiting, and the closing Whole Again ends the album on the sort of anthem that The Verve used to knock off in their sleep.
It’s the sound of a band who have slowly taken the time to consider how their evolution should develop, and this deliberation has borne fruit. Wildness may well have grown, but for Gengahr, something rather more long-lasting may have also taken root.