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The Deepest Red
By Liam McGrady
I once commented that this band’s live performance gave me, “goosebumps where I didn’t think you could get goosebumps”. And that’s not a bad piece of praise. But up till now, however, the recorded output I’d managed to get my ears around from The Sailplanes hadn’t quite had the same effect. Notice that I said “until now”.
In that same review I went banging on about how you couldn’t resist comparing the trio to Sonic Youth. Well that obvious sound-alike is not so obvious any longer. Where there used to be a loose almost improvised feel to The Sailplanes alt rock – you expected them to career off into some kind of psychedelic jam ala Moore and Co. - now with the addition of a new drummer (Yola), the whole sound seems to have tightened up; the songs are shorter, more focused; and a hell of a lot more exciting.
There’s a certain style and feel that runs through these four tracks; taut, tense and concise. The band have always admitted to a fondness for the likes of Can and Einsturznde Neubaten and it’s the influence of these Krautrock pioneers that seems to have muscled in on the previous NY Art Rock sound. As many bands with an alternative musical outlook, there’s no place for the humble bass in The Sailplanes setup, no low rumble, but in no way does ‘The Deepest Red’ feel lightweight or unbalanced; partly due to the powerhouse drumming of Yola, punchy and with robotic precision, and partly due to the evocative edginess that comes from the vocals of Stacey and Tim.
On ‘Seven Ships Lost’ Stacey’s cool, calm, voice cuts through the scrambled, scrawling guitars almost effortlessly, yet with the authority of a stern school mistress (“shoulders back; show some respect”), while on the brief 1min50 ‘Underwound’ (the intro of which features the best kooky glockenspiel part this side of a Danny Elfman soundtrack) Tim spits out words at a frantic pace – pleasingly filled with annoyance: “motorway signs put dots in my eyes and coffee stains my teeth”. Swapping back to the sweet yet angsty female vocals ‘Killing Time’ is unfortunately a little lost in the middle of these four tracks, lacking in any real hook or, erm, other… thing to mark it out from the rest of the songs. Thankfully final track, ‘The Wild Huntsman’ sees The Sailplanes back on form. The constant rumbling of drums leaves the listener permanently on a knife edge, waiting for, anticipating some sort of eruption of sound; an eruption of sound which never happens. What does is rattle along – save for a breakdown about halfway through of guitar harmonics – ever building, with Tim ranting, “now it’s the end of the winter, won’t you come in from the cold?”
The Sailplanes don’t make simple, easy going music. As they say in their press release, “we are not a fashion band… this is not a hobby, this is our lives”. They make the kind of music my mum could never begin to like or comprehend; and that’s a good enough seal of approval for any Alt Rock band.