Friday 13 November 2015

Documenta - Drone Pop #1

Article by KevW

To be perfectly honest, it's a little puzzling just how Belfast's Documenta got to the point where they were able to make this record. Initially the project of Joe Greene but now expanded to a septet, they released debut album 'Dronepop #2' back in 2012 (the initial 'Drone Pop #1' was an early single) and it sounded like the finished article, even making our top five albums of the year. We weren't the only ones impressed, with production superstar David Holmes also becoming a fan and remixing a track for the band. Holmes described them as "promising", we thought they'd gone past that point and cemented a fully realised sound.

The first single from 'Drone Pop #2' was opening track 'Idle Hands', a moody piece of hypnotic psychedelia that appeared to be setting the tone for more of the same. Documenta were still on form. Then the full record arrives and essentially blows everything they've done in the past right out of the water. What seems all the more impressive was that it was recorded in just four days with the expert hand of Ben McAuley helping out with the production which is nothing less than immaculate throughout. David Holmes also lends a hand to centrepiece 'Love As A Ghost' which begins as a tangle of distortion before the clouds part and gentle glides and chimes light everything up, accompanied by beautifully ethereal female vocals. It's A-grade dreampop.

Pinpointing exactly what makes this second full-length such an unexpected leap forward from the first isn't easy, although you could simply say that the songs are better this time around, but 'Drone Pop #2' does have more dimensions and somehow a fuller, more assured sound. Take the stuttering beats on 'Spanish Artist' - a possible nod to the free jazz influence the band cite. Yet really this is another wonderful piece of modern psychedelia with a looping bassline, guitars that begin like early Nick McCabe and later switch to latter Spacemen 3 tunes. That group have always been an influence on Documenta, and it's easy to see this album as a continuation of their quickly evolving music, yet it's not quite as straightforward as that and you can find nods to many other artists, plus Documenta's own hallmarks.

'Horror Vacui I' certainly takes the Rugby group's love of drones and runs with it though, being as much an ambient interlude as a song, although it should be pointed out that in this instance "ambient" isn't shorthand for "boring". It fuzzes its way into the Barrett-era Pink Floyd-like intro to 'Selene' which quickly shapeshifts into a driving piece of krautrock that also switches from shady verses into much lighter and more magical choruses that really take flight. 'Chiaroscuro' is more crystalline guitars and booming atmospherics that aren't unlike certain Morning After Girls tracks; it's bigger and bolder than anything the band have released to date, with messrs Pierce and Kember being a clear influence on the vocal. Like its predecessor, 'Horror Vacui II' is another drone piece, with buzzing analogue synths and twinkling shards of light spattered across its warped and distorted body.

Taking in a bit of everything that 'Done Pop #2' has to offer is last track 'The Day My Heart Stood Still'. Another hypnotic bassline is joined by dual guitars, one serving up a scuzzy background and the other providing the chimes we've come to expect. When combined with otherworldly vocals that are hidden deep in the mix it really starts to surge along, taking you on a trip with it. It's a fitting finale to a surprisingly good album from a band we already knew could muster up great music that feels effortless. Yet with their second LP, Documenta have surpassed themselves and delivered something that's totally cohesive, enticingly compelling, and really quite outstanding.

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