The indie class of 2012 has more than its fair share of moustached, knob-twiddling, vintage synthesiser enthusiasts. People who pay more homage to New Order and Suicide than Television and the MC5, the influences of choice for guitar bands since the Strokes-inspired Great Guitar Revival of the early Noughties.
Errors, the arty Glaswegian three-piece signed to Mogwai's Rock Action label, are the ideal example of this, armed with thoughtful, dreamy and occasionally energetic electro soundscapes. For Errors, moods take precedence over anything as prosaic as songs and New Relics is an eight-track mini-album with some down-beat moods indeed. It's released eight months after the excellent (and DiS-approved) Have Some Faith in Magic in January (incidentally, how an eight-track record can be a mini-album I don't know). So should we still have faith?
People joining the Errors ride in recent times may be slightly perturbed by this new release. Errors' début It's Not Something But it is Like Whatever mixed angular Radiohead guitars with dance rhythms and its successor, Come Down With Me, showed up Afrobeat leanings, while Have Some Faith… was the second side of David Bowie's Low remade for the iPhone generation. New Relics feels more like a work in progress, a record that was more satisfying to make than to listen to.
It starts well, with opener 'Engine Homes's swooping Vangelis soundscape - a synthy, brooding drama with Eighties nostalgia pangs, a glistening instrumental overture. 'Ammaboa Glass' is Talking Heads' Remain in Light but with all the taut, frenetic energy removed. Shapeless, echoed vowels float over swelling synths, but there's no crescendo. You couldn't quite describe this as singing in the traditional sense - here, the voice is another instrument, a very analogue synth. Errors's vocals always sound like they're coming from someone standing very, very far away. In a cave perhaps. Or a well.
Title track 'Relics' is more effective: female vocals add a wistful, Cocteau Twins-esque effect as a slow-plodding funereal electrobeat pulses on - seemingly - forever. 'Hemlock' sounds like someone stuck in well singing over The Knife's first album, but it's affecting and effective. But there's no 'Pleasure Palaces' to add some adrenaline to proceedings or the euphoria of 'Holus-Bolus' - two standout moments from …Magic - this time around.
New Relics is laden with slow dread: minor chords seem to offer no hope amid the clouds. Maybe all those festival slots sap your appetite for bouncy music. Either way, a little edge of anger has gone.
The instrumental 'Gros-Bron-Ange' sounds uncannily like C418's soundtrack to Minecraft, the excellent open world computer game, which isn't at all a bad thing.
On 'White Infinity' it becomes clear Errors have been drinking from the same epic Eighties college rock stream that infused M83's Hurry Up We're Dreaming. A bigness abounds, much like early Simple Minds. Only on album closer 'Pegasus' does Relics come to life, with a relentless house beat punctuating the gloom.
It's still a fascinating, singular path that Errors are on, one that isn't a slave to fashion or to... anything, really. But this doesn't match the shifts in evolution that gave previous works such a feeling of excitement. This is easy to like but hard to love.
6Patrick Smith's Score