Monday, March 11, 2019

The odd couple


Ably demonstrating that Welsh-language music isn't the exclusive preserve of indie bands and earnest folkies, Ani Glass serenades us with the smartly retrofuturist electronic pop of 'Peirianwaith Perffaith' and dedicates another slice of sad disco to the EU. Nevertheless, she suffers from the perennial problem of the solo artist: how to capture and hold the interest of those who want more from a performance than simply a clutch of good songs.

Some bands you can look at and know instantly where the members met: art college, fee-paying school, south London squat. Audiobooks, however, are a real conundrum. In their press photo, David Wrench and Evangelina Ling look like dissolute druid and sacrificial victim. Ling is no naive innocent, though. The Goldsmiths student and occasional model's lyrics are frequently preoccupied with matters of a carnal nature; like Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, she's a posh girl who relishes being rude.

Wizard-haired Wrench, meanwhile, is an Anglesey-born producer and engineer boasting credits on records by everyone from Caribou, Bat For Lashes and Beth Orton to Let's Eat Grandma and Gwenno. The Welsh connection is evident in the title of their debut LP Now! (In A Minute), released on Heavenly at the tail end of 2018, and on its third track 'It Get Be So Swansea', a playful ditty on which the lustful Ling imagines "eating mussels, staring at your muscles".

While Wrench busies himself behind his gadgets, occasionally strapping on a guitar, Ling is a non-stop ball of energy, steadfastly refusing to take off her silver puffa jacket, singing about Henry Hoovers and finishing off a monotone rendition of John Lennon's 'Jealous Guy' in mic-drop style with "I didn't mean to hurt you / I'm just a bastard".

Setting aside the oddest moments of a very odd album (plummy-voiced narratives about hellish family road trips to Devon, eccentric matriarchs and sweaty tuna sandwiches, anyone?), the duo concentrate instead on their more immediate material: the Bjorky gothicisms of 'Gothenburg'; the PJ Harvey-esque incantation 'Womanly Blood'; the vaguely sinister ambient ballad 'Pebbles' ("I love you more than the human race"); and, best of all, the record's bona-fide bangers 'Dance Your Life Away', 'Friends In The Bubble Bath' and 'Hot Salt' - Wrench's "Well that was me, sleeping in your garden / That much is true" in the latter a hilarious acknowledgement of the obvious debt it owes to The Human League's 'Don't You Want Me'.

That trio of tracks, plus an equally immediate new song, suggest that chart success could be theirs if they want it - as unlikely as that might seem at first. One thing's for sure, though - Audiobooks are as fun as they are weird, a fresh take on British pop eccentricity.

(An edited version of this review appeared on the Buzz website.)

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