Album Review: Hardly Electronic by The Essex Green (2018) (Merge Records)

The Essex Green - Hardly Electronic
Twelve years ago I had no children. My wife and I use to do quaint things like spend money on ourselves and talk whole sentences without interruption. We also used to be able sit on the toilet for more that a tenth of a nano-second without the accompaniment of at least one of our offspring. We used to listen to music. A lot of music and had developed a mutual love for the initial The Essex Green output, especially Cannibal Sea, which we played to death.
Image may contain: 2 peopleFast forward twelve years and I would have probably forgotten about this band altogether if it were not for their other project The Ladybug Transistor, occasionally reminding me that I still had such brilliance in my CD cabinet. 

One uninterrupted listen later (in the car in the garage to hide from my darling little cherubs) and it was clear to see that a) twelve years had not diminished their brilliance and b) twelve years was far too long to deprive the world of their music!
The very first two tracks of the album confirmed the inimitable star of their progressive indie-pop aesthetic still burns bright. Sloane Ranger (see below) takes everything that makes Belle and Sebastian so vital and swaps the multiple twee bells and whistles for the infusion of all manner of the most subtle neo-psychelia and modern folk that you could possibly imagine, whilst at the same time adding just that little bit of extra bounce and frolic with the exuberant and exaggerated organ work. It really is a track that cements a re-acquaintance with an old friend.

Sloane Ranger

Similarly tracks such as The 710 (see below), Another Story and albums true stand out Catatonic, with their subtle usage of jangled guitars, invites the dedicated fan back into the all inclusive prettiness and sense of comfortable warmth that was enjoyed so many years ago. The accentuation of this gloriously languid feel is only accentuated by the sheer beauty and vocal control of both Sasha Bell and Chris Ziter who sound as beautiful when harmonizing together as they do when carrying a track individually.

The 710

What is more pronounced on this album is the dominance of bass in certain tracks and the move towards a more dynamic almost power-pop sound in several tracks. Waikiki starts with a 60s surf pop riff before dancing off into the distance with an atypical energy and the superlative Don’t Leave it in Our Hands has a dominant bass riff that might be described as post-punk ‘chunky’ if the inter-changing vocal beauty of Ziter / Bell was not just about able to keep the track the right side of the indie-pop / post-punk divide. It is truly is a wonderful track and something very different than what has been offered before.

The skew / contemporary pop revival of recent times has produced some wonderful bands…However The Essex Green are back to remind all who the ‘modern daddies’ of the genre actually are.

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