Vivaldi aside, the four seasons aren't equally represented in the world of music and of the four, spring is the one most difficult to pinpoint in any particular artist's oeuvre. Perhaps it's because the sensations of spring (the sense of renewal or new life, optimism, ever so slightly warmer temperatures) merely feel like a precursor for summer, it'd seem unwise for anyone to anchor their music to something so transitory. All the same, I'm sure there's a pastoral folk record out there somewhere, all lambs lost in clouds of cherry blossom, which is the definitive spring album. So when I say that in Surf Noir Beat Connection have released a 'spring record' what I really mean is that they've released a summer record in April. Surf Noir sound like a relation of the Balearic/house/pop/indie whatever-you-call-it of Delorean or Swedes such a Lake Heartbeat and The Tough Alliance. Yet, Beat Connection also sit comfortably among the lo-fi Eighties sonic aesthetics of fellow Americans like Washed Out and Memory Tapes. All in all, purveyors of guitar-friendly dance music (or vice-versa) of a effusively warm nature that can't help but bring to mind the months of May through August.
The EP kicks off with its most beach-bound songs. Instrumental opener 'Sunburn' has a plodding rhythm section of tambourine and bass guitar beneath the elevated chimes of parched guitar. Even when the spare arrangement becomes briefly bustling via the introduction of a breakbeat and knotty guitar embellishments the textures and space maintain a sense of heat induced languidness. The tracks blends into the gull cries of 'In the Water' which is like a vitalisation of 'Sunburn'; the rhythm section mutating throughout the track particularly the deep house synth bass throb, which becomes buoyantly melodic for brief snatches, where as the crisp snare and woodblock are almost without variation until the eventual introduction of some tropical sweet steel drums. Atop all this soar stabs of funky guitar echoing in manner redolent of the gull cries and waves of white synth noise which along with the steel drums culminate in a crescendo preceding before a thrilling final chorus-drop; the Seattlites excel in evoking warmth and seaside frolics through the music, as vocalist Tom Eddy delivers little more beyond a repetition of the songtitle is his chirruping falsetto.
In comparison 'Theme From Yours Truly' thuds with club-bound intensity for much of its six and half minutes. A passage of tropical percussion feels like a step outside into the Mediterranean air for respite. The main section isn't lacking in character however, with a distinctly Nineties-centric nostalgia engendered by the presence of Rhodes piano amidst the nightlife glow of the synth hookline, flat out house beat and processed backing vocals. The EP then takes a turn further in to hazy indie-pop territory with the brief 'Fresh Touch' and then past DiS single of the week 'Silver Screen' with their synths equally warm in tone, but of a much woolier texture; it's hard to distinguish whether the sounds at the start of 'Silver Screen' are synths at all or actually flute. Despite showing subtler and more subdued shades to the Beat Connection sound, a mischievous melodic sensibility remains and, when arpeggios of (what this time are definitely) bleeping synths join in, the kaleidoscopic texture and vibrancy that runs through the record is evident. Another brief instrumental, 'Motorway' has a krautrock sharpness, but avoids the obvious motorik beat, utilising vocodered vocals which then resurface on closing track 'Same Damn Time', which also betrays a Kraftwerk influence in its simplistic rhythm, clean synth lines and crisp synthetic handclaps. It suggests a more ascetic disciplined sound, but the light, even breezy, lead melody sits well with the summery lilt of the rest of the EP.
Despite all the allusions to summer and warmth, there's enough variety to suggest that Beat Connection could go in any number of directions, even if they are well trodden. If there's one criticism it's that the shorter tracks feel inessential and make a great five track EP a slightly overlong eight track EP. This aside, Surf Noir should act as a joyous and (hopefully) seasonal soundtrack for the next few months and beyond.
7Neil Ashman's Score