The ominously swelling string sound that opens Boxes could lead in any number of directions, not all of them appealing. Most unappetisingly of all, we could be in for fifteen minutes of ho-hum, so-so, minimalist bedroom electronica. Thankfully, the title track on this Liverpool five-piece’s EP opens up to be something wholly more interesting. Over chords that throw back to Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’, singer Helen Morrisson plaintively sings of ‘the weight of the world’ and ‘how it hurts’ and implies there’s a pharmaceutical solution to the problem. Not a million miles from the millennial angst Massive Attack specialised in back in the day, it makes a worthy successor.
The band’s debut, ‘Kontrol’, is reprised here as the second track. A deeper, Balearic sound pervades. Heavy beats, pulsing bass and sinister background sirens give Morrisson’s voice a fey 90s ambient air, somewhere between the shoegazey meanderings of The Cranes’ Alison Shaw and the ravey woman out of N-Trance. It’s all very big fish, little fish, cardboard box. In a good way.
On ‘The Fire’, we are whisked back to earlier electronic times with a snifter of Jean Michelle Jarre keyboard tinkling and the slow pace continues on into final track ‘Silent Deep’. The cool, tight, stripped-backness of calls to mind The xx and completes a well-rounded EP. Morrisson is icily soulful, especially when stretching for the high notes, and while the overall sound is not particularly distinctive as yet, it feels like a work in progress, rather than lazily derivative. The Baltic States leave the impression there’s good stuff to come.