Album Reviews

Novocain – Novocain

(Mugatu) UK release date: 10 January 2006

A few years ago it would have been deemed incredible, if not impossible, for bandmates to live and work in different countries. However, the wonders of modern music making and the internet have opened up the airways and transcontinental collaborations are now commonplace.

Indeed, there could be a lot to be said for not having your band members breathing down your neck during the creative processes. After all, freedom encourages musical experimentations and Novocain’s debut LP suggests that long distance collaborations can work very well, with Ade K living in London, and Mario Reyes, a Los Angeles local.

The album starts with Around The World, and a heavy synth propelled riff, sounding horror filmic in composition, building a Carpenter-esque tension. However, as the vocals enter the mood changes into a brusque modernity and featured vocalist Robyn Campbell’s voice has a sweet hardness to it, which flows and jars, swirls and hammers strikingly with the staccatoed and darkly stark music.

Time starts in an altogether different vein however. A simple melodious keyboard hints at a strangeness and disquiet that is beautifully added to by Angeline Conaghan’s voice, whispered and warm, a fairy tale, witchy. However, the chorus sweetens and again veers away from the weird – perhaps too sweetly as I’m drawn and held by the strange spell that seems broken with the major inflection. You is a humdinger, emoting tune. The slightly trancey music catches a mood of passion and Dominique Woolf’s voice is crystalline, breathy and emotive. This is purist pop and works perfectly.

Hurricanes however, moves harshly away from the popular and into the full experimental with a beauty, and certainly marks a turning point in the album into more unchartered and interesting territory. The tune already has a nastiness to it, building slowly with beats and discord but as Woolf’s and Campbell’s two vocals enter at the same time they construct a free formed eeriness.

It appears that, like the jazz great Ornette Coleman, Novocain have put together two completely separate vocal lines that somehow work together as twins, morphed with madness, taking this LP to an altogether superior plane that is further developed throughout the later half of the album. The languid 7/13 is a lush beauty and Last Drop is a pure delight of the surreal with dotted, obscure keyboards and an enchanting vocal melody by Woolf. It bends and pulls the listener to the most gorgeous musical place that demands intense listening and concentrations. This is not music to laze into and all the better for it.

Novocain’s debut is quite a brave one that plays with both raw experimentation and purist pop offering electro/experimental rock of unusual interest and intensity. This is the coolest album from a very cool band. There is enough sweetness to appeal broadly, and enough edges to capture, and like Tricky‘s Angels With Dirty Faces, delivers unhinged but delightful rewards with repeated listening.

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Novocain – Novocain