Album Reviews

Teeth Of The Sea – Hive

(Rocket) UK release date: 6 October 2023

The trio’s sixth album combines very different elements which tessellate like honeycomb

Teeth Of The Sea - Hive Hive is Teeth Of The Sea’s sixth album, and fittingly it sounds like six albums at once. Locked within these 41 minutes you’ll find alt-rock, techno, fluffy pop, EBM, a whiff of teenage metalhead guitar, and even a soupcon of easy listening. The album mostly consists of melodic instrumental oddities, but a pair of pulsating pop monsters show themselves early on.

Get With The Programme pushes low-key vocals against an aggressive square wave arpeggio, Depeche Mode’s doomy tunefulness doing battle with Front 242’s shiny leather shimmy, and is followed by Butterfly House, a hothouse-ripe synthpop track with the slightly wry vocals of Kath Gifford (previously of such great acts as Snowpony and Moonshake). Occasional slashes of guitar could have come from INXS’s Kick, and if that’s a surprise then heaven help you when the sugar-coated shredding arrives half-way through, direct from a Van Halen tribute.

Powerhorse couples its rough sandy textures with a sinuous synth bass, sounding a lot like a macabre reptilian version of Boards Of Canada’s Roygbiv, but the album’s centrepiece is Megafragma. Fortunately – or tragically? – this is not a nine-minute avant-garde cover of Toca’s Miracle, but a hypnotic, endlessly cantering piece of Terminator dub, with gaseous billows of guitar and keys erupting and receding above a relentless train-track ostinato. It’s somehow spacious and claustrophobic at the same time, and feels longer than ice ages whilst also being far too short.

Hive’s real wild card though, the hoverfly in the bee swarm, is the trumpet. The opener Artemis uses chintzy synth notes that sound as though they’re being picked up on long wave, but it’s the descending horn line that is stands out, sounding like something from James Last (imagine the joys of the albums Post-Rock-A-Go-Go, or Non-Stop Techno Kraut Party). On Æther the mournful trumpet is lost in a synth miasma, and it’s a close cousin of Jean-Michel Jarre’s funereal space-sax workout, Last Rendezvous. Whilst Jarre was memorialising those lost in the Challenger disaster, Teeth Of The Sea celebrate the Apollo moon landings, having been commissioned to produce a soundtrack by London’s Science Museum.

It is Apollo that closes the album, and this time dusty, fuzzy guitar is a springboard for a defiantly melancholy trumpet line, letting you know how Ennio Morricone’s Ecstasy Of Gold might have sounded had The Good, The Bad And The Ugly been set in a VHS warehouse. Hive could have been a messily ornery experimental effort, but all of these very different elements tessellate like honeycomb.

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