Disclosure: Jude Rogers – freelance writer extraordinaire and wife of The Drink's drummer Daniel Fordham – was involved in the Smoke: A London Peculiar website, which published some of my work.
|The Drink - Capital|
Listening to Capital - The second album by London-based, dark-folk oddity, The Drink - reminded me of the early 1980s, when indie music seemed to occupy a strange parallel dimension, adjacent to what was going on in the mainstream.
In this pre-internet age, left-field bands, cocooned in their own worlds, on the periphery of the British music scene, hoved haphazardly in and out of my orbit: Momentarily blinking into existence on FM radio waves, via a John Peel Session; read about in small articles in one of the weekly music papers, but perhaps never heard; occasionally granted a flicker of wider exposure in the form of an incomplete, context-free snippet from a chorus, accompanying a still, black and white photo, during the Indie Top 10 singles countdown on The Chart Show.
The Drink draw on the spirit of this era, along with countless historical DIY efforts to recalibrate pop music according to some alternative template. There is a sense of a band going their own way; who, at times, seem lost in a sea fog between the algorithmic structures of American post rock, and a kind of far-flung, Anglicised island folk music.
The spindly guitar that methodically works itself into complicated shapes, as if negotiating the twists and turns of an intricate, blackboard-bound mathematical formula, doesn't so much provide structure to these songs as it does define their outer limits. There are moments on Capital when it sounds like a less scattered approximation of the dexterous Congolese Soukous style of finger picking - a technique that, in sub-Saharan climes, showers the listener with peels of warm notes. Relocated several lines of latitude to the north, these exotic chord structures shake off some of their equatorial looseness, gaining angles and, during the advancing mantra of The Coming Rain, a purposeful forward momentum: It's a song that skips about on an undulating African rhythm, tethered to a vocal that multi-tracks partway through, affecting a slow dissolve into a false ending, before picking up again where it left off.
The ten tracks here are unusually detailed in their construction, with some deliberately unbalanced or marginally out of tune. This makes them intriguing but difficult to fathom on early listens. The wilfully off-kilter Hair Trigger is sonically equivalent to one of those gravity-defying modern skyscrapers that look like they might fall down at any moment – a fidgety, a-melodic rhythm that jumps back and forth, or hangs on the spot, while the drummer attempts to lay down a stabilising beat underneath.
Potter's Grave – another peculiarity that seems to have been meticulously pieced together from a grab-bag of ideas – is built around an intricately looping guitar that assumes a holding pattern during the lead-in to the chorus.
Adding fluidity to this cat's cradle of sound, with its zigzagging advances and retreats, is Dearbhla Minogue, whose untutored vocals float around the higher registers and recall front-women like Rosie Cuckston (Pram) and Alison Statton (Young Marble Giants). Unlike Cuckston, who was happy for her voice to crack as she strained for the top notes, Minogue stays within the limits of her range. It's a style in keeping with the overall approach of the band, who will meticulously explore the outer limits of a musical idea, but in a very controlled, restrained and methodical manner.
Capital is an album of curiosities; odd lines that rise from a sea of lyrical abstraction, such as the oft-repeated “If you do well in school I'll take yah to the swimming pool” on Potter's Grave.
I'll Never Make You Cry simulates walking in on a 1960s girl group, in the early stages of demoing a version of a much bigger song, with place-holder lyrics and a ponderous bookmark of an instrumental break. This non-traditional, approach to vocal downtime is repeated on Hair Trigger with its sketchy, negative image of a guitar solo, absent power chords.
The Drink tread a fine line, carefully micro-managing their sound, but stopping short of allowing these underlying complexities to get in the way of the songs. On Capital there are moments of genuine tension and atmosphere. The ominous organ drone and guitar creep that opens No Memory has the air of a developing off-shore weather system. It's a song that carries itself forward, rising and falling on slow-building swells. The drawn-out coda, ghosted by stray backing vocals, peters out before it can fade away, as if the band who have thrown so many ideas into this album, in its final seconds finally ran out of notes to play.
The Drink – Potter's Grave
The Drink – Capital
Release Date: 13th November, 2015
Track Listing and Timings
1. Like a River 3:04
2. You Won't Come Back at All 5:00
3. Potter's Grave 4:01
4. Roller 3:27
5. Hair Trigger 4:30
6. I Can't Sleep 3:56
7. The Coming Rain 5:12
8. I'll Never Make You Cry 3:31
9. Month of May 3:23
10. No Memory 5:35