Velella Velella - The Bay Of Biscay
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Velella Velella
The Bay Of Biscay

Long-time known for releasing music that fit their namesake pretty well, Hush Records have slowly been expanding over the years, and a couple of the first releases of 2007 have furthered that process even more. It's not as if the label has been incapable of fun music, as evidence by Blanket Music and others, but quieter stuff has longtime been their bread and butter. As mentioned above, though, this year has found them putting out the midi-pop of Dat'R and now this semi-friend funkiness from Velella Velella (named after a jellyfish).

The group pulls a bunch of different references into their music, and their instrumentation is just as vast, with live drums bumping up against programmed beats, plenty of Farfisa keyboards and Rhodes electric piano, squealing organ, analogue synths, flutes, vibes, guitar, bass, and the occasional vocals. Opening track "Do Not Fold / Do Not Bend" sets the stage well, with many of the aforementioned instruments butting up against one another in a sort of vibed-out track that doesn't sound unlike something that would have come from the windy city brethren (aka Tortoise, Sea And Cake) on their past couple albums, while morphing into a hand-clapping sing-along during the closing section.

In other places (like the playful "If You Can't Figure Out How To Work It Maybe You Don't Need Another Drink" and even chunkier "3 To The 6 To The 0" ), the group drops some crunchy beats alongside odd spoken-word samples, and the results sound something like the playful jams of Emperor Penguin, who kicked out a couple great albums of this sort of thing a couple years ago. In only a couple places, vocals make a larger appearance (as on the bizarro-cousin of !!! sounding "Hunter") and it makes you wish they'd anchor a few more of their instrumental grooves with voices.

Despite consistently-fun song titles and luscious, but loose production that gives the release a feel that's somewhere between polished and ramshackle, The Bay Of Biscay runs more than a bit long at seventeen tracks and almost an hour in length. Without a huge deal of variety in terms of overall song dynamics, tracks blur into one another here and there before a surprise knocks you upside the head and makes you pay attention again. You could certainly do a lot worse in terms of feel-good fun time music, though, and with some of the most beautiful packaging I've seen this year, Velella Velella may very well just be the perfect thing for your next summer soiree.

rating: 6.510
Aaron Coleman 2007-05-24 21:25:07