Syd Arthur - On and On
Canterbury based group Syd Arthur have been receiving high praise recently for their return to 60's and 70's inspired psych-rock. Their debut E.P Moving World impressed many with its dynamic sprawl of sound firmly rooted in the sounds of the past.
Their debut album On an On has maintained the psychedelic influences and enhanced them with a modern pop sensibility. The group are now being hailed as contemporaries to alternative favourites Wolf people and Aussies Tame Impala. Impressively the band have already become so proficient inn the studio that they chose to engineer, produce and mix their debut themselves, and this attention to detail and passion is a key feature of the LP.
You sense that this group have been cultivating their intelligent and complex sound for years before committing it to record, yet it's evident that they are unafraid to experiment. Album opener 'First Difference' is a folk style track that has a big band quality to it, Syd Arthur have the ability to sound as if they have a whole orchestra behind them, much of this down to the beautiful violin playing of Raven Bush who at times delicately plucks and then viciously scrapes across the strings. The song is a marker for the rest of the album, it grows in strength and intensity as it goes on, and dips in and out of a wall of sound, managing to change tempo's fluidly and impressively.
Syd Arthur's poppy side comes through on songs like 'Ode To The Summer', front man Liam Magill plays dirty guitar licks whilst belting out lyrics about the beauty of a summer's day "leaving him behind." His delivery is especially direct here, and is strangely reminiscent of lost indie favourites Cajun Dance Party; he manages to sing astride the music rather than over it. The groove and pounding drums give the song a real up-tempo feel that is infectious.
On an On's best track is 'Dorothy', Magills voice is perfect for a jazzy love song. The musicianship is intricate and finds them sounding like Devendra Barnhart in his softer moments. 'Dorothy' then segues into the mad bombast of 'Truth Seeker', a huge dirge freak-out with a triumphant chorus of "Truth Seeker what do you know? My heart goes out to you."
Live the band are an intriguing prospect and 'Moving World' will surely be at the centre of their set, its huge and has a classical 70's sound that is swamped by the jazzy overtones in a perplexing but pleasing way. Final track 'Paradise Lost' comes in at over 9 minutes long and ensures the album ends on a statement of intent. Knowing the bands penchant for changing tempo, it's no surprise when the song slows at the halfway mark from the whir of feedback into a beautifully finger picked folk song that again shifts into a spiky pop song before the end, unsurprisingly a beatles-esque moment of psychadelia where the music is played backwards.
On and On is an album that is made for fans of musical history. It contains a huge amount of influences and isn't shy about experimenting. Syd Athur are a rarity these days; in a world of musicians who know very little about its intricacies, they stand proud in their ability to deliver progressive music that happily references the past.