Album Reviews

Homelife – Guru Man Hubcap Lady

(Ninja Tune) UK release date: 30 August 2004

Homelife is an intriguing concept – a collective that varies between three and about 12 members but no-one seems to know how many! To further the intrigue, male vocalist Faron Brooks lives on Vancouver Island, mailing his contributions to the band. Also present is Graham Massey, a name that may be familiar to you from the days of 808 State – he was their main man.

The first Homelife album, Flying Wonders, was a cosmopolitan stew of avant garde, jazz, folk and odd sound effects, with a weirdness that was strangely appealing and fresh. Guru Man Hubcap Lady is a more than appropriate follow-up that looks to keep the freshness while introducing a few more tunes.

All of the band’s material is recorded at the house of reluctant frontman Paddy Steer, with musicians more or less making their contributions in shifts. You would think this would lead to a disjointed sound in the final edit but not so – any screwed-up beats or melodies are clearly intentional.

The opening track Roman Foam is disjointed for sure, with its brass band and even fireworks, but the chaos makes for great listening, especially on headphones. The title track stutters in over a breakbeat rhythm, while in Harder we hear Homelife’s poppiest, funkiest moment to date – the squelchy bass and offbeat guitar stabs crossed with a stop/start beat.

It’s a treat to hear again the amazing voice of Seaming To, an incredibly versatile singer who has previous Homelife history and has also collaborated with Mr Scruff. Here in Heaven Knows she sings a dreamy reverie, the lyrics holding a clue to its carefree nature – “heaven knows where it goes, matching the Milky Way”. It seems that the lyrics share the same improvisatory qualities as the music.

Banjo resumes the exuberant mood, with the occasional rhythmic jab from Massey’s clarinet, while Lowdell Is Missing is an extended improvisation with swirling strings and organ. April Sunshine is a cacophony of sound, employing a favourite Homelife trick in achieving unusual instrumental unisons. This time it’s a double bass and what sounds like a theremin on speed!

The brass return for the following track, the fantastically named Windytreehouserollerdisco, a word that describes the music perfectly, and there’s a really beautiful moment at the end when the drums cut. The highly atmospheric Big Tree sounds like something of a ritual, the unisons again in evidence.

You’ll gather from all this that this is an intriguing listen, packed full of instrumental and vocal pyrotechnics and colour. It’s no wonder they’ve been approached for soundtracks, and if you haven’t heard them yet I urge you to give them a try – plenty of fun awaits.

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More on Homelife
Homelife – Exotic Interlude
Homelife – Guru Man Hubcap Lady