Part of the joy of attending a music festival, aside from communingwith nature by not showering for three days and buying a tote bag madefrom hemp, is that you never know who you might bump into. For Here WeGo Magic at their Glastonbury set in 2010, it just so happened to bechief Radiohead knob-twiddler and super-producer Nigel Godrichwho crossed their path. Oh, and Thom Yorke. Oh, and they both turnedout to be massive fans.
Yorke kept an eye on the Brooklyn act, who began as singerLuke Temple’s solo, four-track bedroom project, gradually evolving to afully flushed band, and dragged a heroically hungover Godrich to theirlate morning Park Stage appearance. Impressed by their expansive,often psychedelic take on the krautrock sound wrung from a traditionalset-up, and having appeared at several more stops along their Europeantour supporting groove-orientated second LP Pigeons, Godrichvolunteered to take the reins for the sessions that became A DifferentShip.
To the band’s immediate credit, little truck is given stylistically tothe group with whom their luminary producer is chiefly associated, therecord thereby sidestepping the immediate pitfall – and genre in itsown right – of becoming a Radiohead facsimile. Godrich does giveproceedings a now familiar immaculate sheen, a sound that’s fullwithout being cluttered, one that’s both honed and purposeful, but therecord really takes its cue from the band that inspired Yorke et al’smoniker – Talking Heads. More precisely, it often recalls1980’s classic Remain In Light. A Different Ship is similarlycompelling and tortuous; a slippery, panic attack of a record,distilling the sense of pressure bearing down on a band a member short- keyboard player Kristina Liberson left under difficult personalcircumstances recently – and forced to cram touring and writingcommitments around intimidating sessions with an ubermenschproducer.
Songs veer from anxious seizures to glassy-eyed resignations, but areunified in their scope and effect. In step with its celebratedprecursor, the record’s first half is pockmarked with funk freak-outs- brittle guitar lines coiling around one another on the terse,polyrhythmic space-groove of I Believe In Action. It also innovates,gleefully mashing genres; Hard To Be Close begins as a dustbowl strumon a creaking acoustic guitar before starting a journey on aprogressive build of skittering drums, shimmering arpeggiated guitarsand washes of synth. As smooth as it is impressive, it ends running ona krautrock rail, Temple’s lyrics caught between finding intimacyuncomfortable but wanting help nonetheless, “What if I do? What if Icall for you?” It’s no coincidence that the record then lurches offthe edge into a digital nightmare, the 16-bit funk of Make Up YourMind punctured by vertiginous peaks of synth.
With catharsis, of course, comes resolution and reflection. In thiscase it’s still an eerie castaway calm – Alone But Moving and Over TheOcean are both crystalline, almost catatonic drifts, Temple every inchthe whimsical savant David Byrne finding complexity in the simple, andsimplicity in the complex. Tellingly though, there are moments ofclarity. How Do I Know, a two chorder buried in the album, is acompellingly joyful indie-pop song that sublimates Evan Dando’s oeuvreinto four and a half minutes, tumbling out before it’s aware of itself.Perfectly measured, complimentary synth parts cajole a lyric obsessedwith plumbing the depth of feelings, finally carrying it off on a tideof woos in the face of its own concerns. It’s a clarion call toembrace opportunity just as Once In A Lifetime was before it. Simplyput, it’s one of the singles of the year.
In a telling and powerful link between the visual and aural, therecord’s cover has figures tumbling and diving in an aquamarine field,one lacking a perspective and depth that makes them gracefully andblissfully lost. A Different Ship might be the sound of a band oftencast adrift, but in Godrich there’s now a firm hand on the tiller, hissteadying influence streamlining their sound and taking them to thenext level. If this is the outcome, let’s hope they continue to floataimlessly for a while yet.