Electrelane makes instrumental surf music for people who get existential nausea just looking at the ocean. The opener, “Invisible Dog” (which neatly calls up both the spirit and the word of the Stooges without quoting or aping), and delicately handled references to such synth cheese tunes as Hot Butter’s “Popcorn” keep a smile (or at least a smirk) nearby, while bleak instrumental snapshots out the car window on the dreariest of days keep the mind just ahead of gloom. Electrelane manages to find that delicate balance between cliché and, well, not cliché.
Of course Electrelane sounds like a sound track to a wonderful, car-crash-irresistible film that hasn’t yet been made. You may hear familiar tones, signifiers of times gone by, genres you once loved without reservation, innocence and simplicity. But in the hands of these four blighty women, it is fodder for purely associative mind-messing. One scene, “The Boat,” conjures the ghost of Ian Curtis just enough that you feel the Joy Division leader’s crushing desperation before the song heads off into the ether, tracking a half-lost Farfisa organ trail. Grandeur, pointed isolation, puckish fun — it’s all in the wash along the way, rain-soaked.
There’s absolutely nothing pretentious or traditionally “difficult” about this music, yet it moves you in ways you don’t immediately understand. Of course, sometimes it just is, and in doing so acts as sonic wallpaper till something pops out of the mix that drags your ear back in. Most of the time, though, you just sit there thinking, “OK, just two more minutes and then I’ll get up.” An hour later ...
At its most pedestrian, Electrelane merely evokes a mood with disciplined tone, texture and dissonance. At its best, Electrelane invokes the chaotic spirit of rock ’n’ roll through two-chord ritual, repetition and whirling-dervish energy tempered only by temporary, giddy exhaustion.
E-mail Chris Handyside at [email protected].