I guess the editors of Cyclic Defrost have been checking my reviews (always good to know they’re not just publishing any old drivel without proofing first). Having written about the new Mark Gardener collaboration with Robin Guthrie, they sent me copies of another new collaboration featuring Gardener (to be reviewed presently) along with this EP, backed by the same publicists, by independent New York based nugazers, Malka.
Where the Guthrie/Gardener album largely steered clear of shoegaze’s more overt moments, the younger musicians in Malka jump straight in. In fact, Constant State’s opening track, ‘A Flock Of Crows’ had me grinning widely from first listen. What other response could an old shoegaze fan have upon hearing its melodic charm, 6/8 groove and soaring, inventive My Bloody Valentine guitars? Without sounding at all recycled or pastiched, it simply works as a blast of upbeat noise-pop on its own terms. And elsewhere on the EP, that mood is also captured. ‘Diamond Girl’ is really built around a series of inventive double time triplet drum rolls and a perfect balance of lightness and grit. It’s another real highlight. Closing track, ’Swoon’ has a blasting, exultant guitar hook intro and its verses actually remind me a little of what Interpol might sound like if they let their angst be loosened by a bit of psychedelic freedom.
Unfortunately, the EP doesn’t quite maintain this consistent success across its full 33 minutes. Most of the other tracks are meandering and quite rockist, their plodding rhythm bases and histrionic guitar work the very antithesis of the sonically based invention of the original wave of guitar pedal based bands. Melodically, also, things turn a bit dirgey elsewhere. Meaning ‘Wolves And Sheep’ ends up coming across all Muse moody, something we don’t really need, while ‘For Now We Live’ meanders in sub-Sigur Ros territory, not entirely unlikeable, but neither is it amazingly memorable. It ends up a little like second-tier bands from the original Oxford scene such as Revolver – likeable, but you can hear why they haven’t held their place in history. ‘Mientras Se Respira’ lightens the mood a touch but, again, without any real melodic or sonic hook to really grab attention – though, I must confess, I am rather partial to bands singing natively in Spanish, as this bilingual group does here and on ‘Corazon Sin Sangre’.
Ultimately, The Constant State promises more than it can deliver. At times, it struggles to supply with anything that leaves itself lodged in my brain beyond the time it takes to listen through. At its best moments, though, it is a work of soaring beauty that surely points to the potential of future releases.