Saturday, 13 July 2013

Joan and the Sailors - Home Storm

Album review by

Sometimes the easiest way to describe the sound of a band to people yet to hear them is to liken them to a similar band. For example, it's not uncommon to see a Crocodiles review mention The Jesus & Mary Chain. But when a band has a distinctive sound this becomes a bit more tricky; you can either thrown in a mix of acts that different sections of their sound bears a resemblance to, or go into lengthy (and probably quite boring) detail about exactly what the songs comprise of. It's fair to say that Swiss band Joan and the Sailors don't have a direct comparison, and also that a description of their varied sound would most probably end up being more of an essay than a review. Even the lyrics show that they're a group with many influences; they switch between English, French and Spanish for the songs on new album 'Home Storm'.

The overall sound of the album is innovative but could come under the loose tags of alternative rock or experimental indie. Many different techniques and layers are involved in these songs, and if we start at the beginning then 'Tic Tac' is ticking, stuttering drums and meandering, plucked guitar that's given plenty of reverb. The tempo isn't smooth, it stops and starts and the vocals (in English here) do the same. This isn't art for art's sake though, it's a very good song. The guitar sound remains much the same for 'En Guantes Blancos', only here the overall pace slows for large parts, creating something a touch more atmospheric. 'Train Song' is made from the same ingredients, however the subtle changes give a variation so it never feels as though the band are repeating themselves and it ends up feeling quite epic. Even bigger is the title-track which ramps up the guitars to create the biggest, fiercest song on the album.

This style serves them well and makes for some very interesting music, but when they step just outside it things get even better. With its pounding, war-cry beat, 'Light Over Innsmouth' adds more layers of vocals and a wider array of instruments, some from traditional western folk and some with a more exotic vibe; 'Puzzle Of Feelings' is a complete hybrid of parts from all around the alternative music world, you could perhaps liken it to PJ Harvey joining Esben & The Witch and Mogwai for jamming session. The brilliantly-titled 'Power That Bee' would probably be labelled as post-rock although it has a certain urgency to it, and 'La Realite' is another post-rock influenced song, but this time it uses the steady-build to create its mood. 'Home Storm' is occasionally a tumultuous record, and after the ferocity that some parts have evoked, we end with 'Blue Moon' (unless you count the secret track, but we won't talk about that because it's a secret) which feels like the relaxing, almost relieved aftermath of it all. Joan and the Sailors have made an original, innovative and quite stirring album in 'Home Storm', but then storms generally are quite exciting.

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