In the age of digital downloads and songs that basically exist without any real artwork, I'm one of those suckers who still gets giddy over a good design or CD packaging. Needless to say, I was underwhelmed by the cover of Bamnan And Slivercork, which looks like it was put together in MS Paint. However, I'm also willing to look past artwork if the music on the release is great, and Midlake is a little group that has come out of nowhere to drop this fine little release of slightly psychedelic pop. Imagine Flaming Lips with a sleepy brit vocalist or the UK version of The Robot Ate Me and you're getting somewhere close.
"They Cannot Let It Expand" dips its feet ever-so-slightly into the bizzare pond, mixing a touch of electronics alongside acoustic guitar and buzzing synths and repetitive vocals, but the group takes huge leaps forward on the dazzling "Balloon Maker." Mixing horns, playful rhodes melodies, and a swell of background vocals, the track is one of the best on the entire release. "Some Of Them Are Superstitions" takes several of the same elements (buzzy synths and sweeping choruses) and mixes them into another joyously upbeat track.
Even when they're being a bit indulgent (as on the slightly filler-ish "The Reprimand"), the group can be forgiven by following with a solid track like "The Jungler." Rambling like a drunk carny, the song blends about 3 different synth melodies along with somewhat slurry vocals and punchy drumming for a ramshackle treat. With lyrics that are often basically stream of consciousness style, the whole release breezes by with a loose, almost patchwork quality that actually works in its favor. The production is by no means second-rate, though, as it retains a sort of epic lo-fi quality that reminds one of the Elephant Six collective at times.
After a string of moody and or downright darker releases, Bamnan And Slivercork is also a breath of fresh air on Simon Raymonde's (Cocteau Twins) Bella Union label. With a playful spirit that is never overly goofy or relying on cheap gimmicks, the disc is 12 tracks and 45 minutes of smart and sometimes dense pop music that should be a kick for any of the aforementioned artists.