ELaB Records – 10th February 2017
Being a teen of the late 80s and early 90s, I discovered curve through the pages of the music press as was, and absolutely bloody loved them. It’s perhaps hard to appreciate now, in these jaded, music-saturated ties, just how exciting it all was back then. I’m not disparaging the current music scene: far from it. I find new bands which excite me on a weekly basis. But that’s part of the problem: it’s all there, streams and links shared by friends and reviews rippling across social media within hours of posting by a single person of note. And said person of note can be anyone with a high media profile. Back then, it was all about the ability of a critic to capture the imagination, and then for the music fan to seek it out. If you were lucky, John Peel would be spinning something by the act in question. If not… well, you’d got legwork to do. If it sounds arduous, think again: it was fun. It was rewarding.
Anyway. Post-Curve, Dean Garcia formed SPC ECO with his daughter, Rose Berlin. The parallels between this current vehicle and Curve are abundant, to the extent that they require no comment: you can likely find those observations elsewhere all over the internet, and such duplication is such a bore.
What you want – need – to know is that this EP which features five tracks which break the mould: instead of bursting with compressed guitar and mechanised drum-machine led shimmering walls of sound, these are hushed sedate and understated works. Restrained and dreamily subdued as they are, they’re rich in atmosphere depth.
Instrumentally, ‘Under My Skin’ has hints of Moby and The XX about it.. It begins quietly, Rose’s voice close to the mic singing quietly and backed by only a brooding piano. But there are layers building beneath, with tapering synths and delicate reverb filling the space and the space between.
‘Creep in the Shadows’ is a weird one: the bloopy autotuned vocals are so heavily processed as to be essentially robotic, detached, unhuman, and they drift over a backing so minimal as to be barely there: a sparse beat clacks away way back in the distance as a super-low, dubby synthesised bass wanders at will. There’s practically nothing to get a hold of, and it’s so produced it’s hard to position. Contrast that with the lo-mo tri-hop dub of ‘Lt it Be Always’: murky beats and swampy bass conjure dark atmospherics while Berlin comes on like Beth Gibbons at her most hauntingly ethereal.
In its pursuit of the fragile and the paired-back, this EP is by no means SPC ECO’s most immediate release, and doesn’t offer the dynamics of some of their previous releases, but it does follow their recent trajectory which has seen the duo create music of an increasingly claustrophobic, hushed intensity.