There’s something very English about Mewgatz. Not just in the Southern accent of his shy, almost spoken vocals, or in the whimsical intellectualism of his lyrics, but also in the oddball quaintness of the musical backing, with very old synths – that sound loved and abused in equal measure – usually laid over a muffled electric guitar. You can almost hear the woolly jumper, the cup of tea and the dark rainy evening outside.
Much of the instrumentation on Love Songs And Carboot Electronica sounds suspiciously like unconnected plinking, and at times it feels like Mewgatz is channeling a primary school toy box (complete with tongue sticking out in concentration) but there is more to it at a second listen. Songs like Transatlantic Fiberoptics, Linkup and Style 19 sound initially like they’re going to be one-minute fillers before a song creeps stealthily in behind, settles in and warms its feet by the light of the four-track.
There’s a hint of Max Tundra in the more abstract sections, an echo of the more electronic moments of Super Furry Animals and even a bit of primitive dubstep at the beginning of Function, a track which sounds like early Autechre performed by ten-year-olds pretending they’re Kraftwerk. While the songs would stand up without all this, the skittery rhythms and off-kilter bleeping are a nice counterpoint to what could otherwise have been insufferable guitar and vocal dirges.
But the man’s clearly a romantic. The songs talk of science and love and robots and science again; the guitar is warm and the synths are dripping with nostalgia. We have stylophones, of course, and in the final song the venerated and distinctive Casio SK1’s preset beat comes in like a slow procession. At last we leave behind the abstract bleeps and two-finger drum parts, which – fun though they are – do wear a bit thin after a while.
The album is very cute but it’s not without it’s low points. The beats in Dwarved are sullied with abstract synth brass and what sounds like morse code, and Restrain, while not without charm, pushes the kindergarten musicianship and scientific whimsy a little too far. Possibly the silliest track on the album, £3 Disco, seems to be a mission statement of sorts and may appeal to those with an obtuse sense of humour – its intermittent but insistent vocal, wilfully out-of-tune synths and wibbly keyboard outro betray someone apparently just messing about, which is refreshing after what can feel like a whimsy overload. And it’s clear that when he puts his mind to it he can do much better.
If the album has a character, it’s definitely shy; it’s the album that sits in the corner doing its own thing, not making friends and hiding behind its obtuse bleeping and smashed synth demo settings, but wanting someone to see past all that to its inner beauty. Sometimes that beauty is too well hidden, but sometimes the inner charm does win out.