These new King Champion Sounds tracks DO feel like night time drives round grimy urban centres, and in that are far more wide ranging and multifacetted in scope and ambition than the ones on their breezy debut LP.
(Louder than War Records)
King Champion Sounds have released a new LP, Songs For the Golden Hour. Fair enough; we really enjoyed their debut, Different Drummer, so we were always going to give it a play. But listening to this LP over the last few days has shown that this new one is something special. And because of that it's worth running through the LP, track by track.
Opener Ghetto of Eden chugs along steadily; the pressure growing up by increment until the track sounds like one thick, sleazy, oozing paste, squeezed out of a tube. The temperature drops a bit for the follow up, S.M. Revelation, a cut that seems to be the reflective counterpoint of its strident partner. The horns continue their new, sleazy role (overall, the horn section sounds far more like primetime Roxy than the chirpy laddish zoot suit feel they gave off on Different Drummer) and the guitar leaves a fizzing network of patterns and shapes as some form of scaffolding to give a framework to wrap round the increasingly abstract thoughts GW Sok kicks out. There is a pattern growing, one that is intense but removed and built between the broadsword lunges of the bass, the Saladin-like rapier thrusts of the guitar and the tonal wash of the horns. All well and good. Following 'Revelation, we get Waiting For the Measures, which is (again, though moreso) a Fall-like urban stomp buoyed up by some beautiful, rapier-like guitar lines and a thick, unguent bass line. At this point you start to feel that the record has the feel of For Your Pleasure, updated two decades or so; soundtracking the grimy, maze-like fall out of Madchester; a gritty, neon-lit vista punctuated by the litter of a whole heap of dreams and attitudes. These new King Champion Sounds tracks DO feel like night time drives round grimy urban centres, and in that are far more wide ranging and multifacetted in scope and ambition than the ones on their breezy debut LP. My, this new LP by King Champion Sounds is a real zone out.
Talking about Roxy? Well, the beginning of The Year 500 could be the chopsticks piano entrée that leads in Do The Strand; albeit speeded up to ugly effect before a righteous groove takes over; a Monks-like intensity informing the bass run, which thumps and presses like a precision tool turning a lathe. The guitar starts to take on the mantle of a beautiful folk riff - remarkably similar to one on Witthüser & Westrupp's classic acid chamber folk LP, Trips Und Träume. Now and again the horns stab like button presses punching into clothing on a factory line, fuck me this is a kraut-zen take on a factory floor back in the 70s/80s. Over the top GW Sok assumes the manel of Damo Suzuki to lead the band towards some appropriation of Mother Sky; albeit without that earlier track's startling guitar explosion amidships. Here, things are regulated and slowly squeezed into shape; mill town style. It's an extraordinary cut and redolent of many things now gone.
At this point the record starts to be something far more than you initially imagined. First we get a beautiful floating meditation, Moottoripyörän Matka which (unsurprisingly, given the title) picks up elements from a lot of "Nordic" music. Benni Hemm Hemm or Seabear come to mind; maybe even a bedroom take on Sigur Ros. After this respite the Idiot Joy Showland-vibe of The Quiet Beach comes on like a cold splash after the sweat room; there's a feeling of Sun King pomp and grandeur here that the Verve would have been delighted to steal. Or rather, the sort of cheeky, grubby all-knowing glam that World of Twist would have easily spat out. Finally Breadlines and Deadlines swims into view. Here, GW Sok takes commmand. Seemingly sat in his study, Sok goes through a list of regrets backed by a muted band; who almost sound like a palm court orchestra, unobtrusively playing along between the potted plants as Sok's guests take tea. Lots of memories, lots of past times evoked, but somehow squeezed into the present in a manner that has nothing of the pastiche about it.
Before we forget, we should reference the old record whilst wrapping up talking about this new one. Compared with Different Drummer (which was a breezy, abrasive and chirpy affair) the leaps and bounds the band show in portraying their worldview are remarkable. For one Songs for the Golden Hour is (as the title, artwork and accompanying videos surely suggest) a look back of sorts; but this look back is an internal one, not one really pitched to the punter. Rather a potent dream world that seems to address a lot of what shaped the band members from years before. Secondly, the sound is so much "more" on this later record; echoing and grandiose and semi-tragic, it nevertheless has added more brute force and willpower to its elbow, displaying none of the scruffy, Tommy Steel "urchinisms" of their debut. In that, it elevates the band from being a good band into being the vehicle for something else entirely.
They'll need to lace their tea with something special to beat this. Highly recommended.