Austin, Texas is fast becoming the epicentre of a new musical wave engulfing the world with release upon release emanating from the location. The latest album to emerge is Love Inks’ second offering Generation Club, the follow up to 2011’s debut E.S.P. which was an ode to “loss, grief and insurmountable heartache” in the band’s own words.
For newcomers, Love Inks are an indie lo-fi dream-pop trio named after an ancient voodoo practice. The music revolves around the husband and wife team of Kevin Dehan (bass) and Sherry LeBlanc, the provider of a sultry, sexy voice reminiscent of Hope Sandoval crossed with Stevie Nicks; the trio is completed by most recent addition, guitarist Derek Brown.
The band’s lush minimalism is based around a core of Dehan’s soundscapes, predominantly built around simple electronica, with his subtle bass adding a further texture; drum machines, touches of guitar and LeBlanc’s delicate vocals complete the mix, which has all been recorded on a half-inch tape machine. Whereas E.S.P. was about loss, the new album represents an about turn, taking its focus from new beginnings and moving on.
Hold Out introduces the record, a mesmerising, dreamy wave of minimalism punctuated by a strong bass beat and basic percussion, with subtle, sweeping synths undulating throughout. LeBlanc’s vocals appear as if added as a final touch; indeed, the majority of Generation Club sounds as if the music has been constructed initially, with vocal melodies built around the instrumentals.
The fascinating and addictive drum machine pattern, plus pulsing bass, of Hearts Up follows, providing the bones for LeBlanc to flesh out; it’s a clear highlight, building in intensity for the latter half of the song after the addition of further synths and electronica before fading out. Second single Outta Sight then continues the strong start, constructed around a pulsing, staccato bass and basic drum machine beat; this time a more prevalent guitar line appears and beautifully melodic vocals soar above the music with sheer elegance.
Another pulsing bassline and ticking beat adorn I’m Gone with delicate, skeletal guitar noodlings offering more divine ear candy alongside those dreamy vocals. Night Lunch provides another extremely addictive moment with its incessant pulsing beat and delicate percussion providing a backdrop of beauty, seemingly taking time out to view a snapshot in a blossoming relationship with its “life can wait when it’s you and me” line; it’s another sublime moment.
The subtle tones of Magazine Street abandon the drum machine based approach, favouring instead more guitar and wispy vocals with the minimalism possibly reaching its peak; lead single Solar Diary follows, sweeping and soaring a delightful dream-pop flight of excellence with LeBlanc’s vocals floating around the lush instrumentation once more to create another high point.
A prominent drum beat introduces Time, sounding more in the vein of Ladytron during the first few bars, before the delicate vocals return; it’s probably the ‘heaviest’ Love Inks get, with a more up tempo drum pattern, synth melodies and guitaring providing the backdrop once again. Secret Tattoo continues the faster pace, with Dehan’s bass thumping along in the background, married with another ticking beat before burning out in under two minutes. Closer Waiting On A Plane is pleasant enough, although fairly unmemorable with echo laden synths and vocals combining but altogether sounding a little jumbled at times.
In a week that sees the masters of minimalism – Mazzy Star – return after 17 years, it is unfortunate that Love Inks’ latest offering is released at the same time because it could get lost in Mazzy’s wake, despite the band walking a different, electronic based path. This album needs to be heard for its sheer beauty. For much of the material here, inspiration apparently came from the band’s last European tour – Berlin in particular; based on this output let’s hope they soon head back out to Germany. File under easy listening electronica.