Hailing from the capital of the South West, this Bristolian five-piece have just released their second album since forming in 2007.
They have received praise for producing a sound that is original, a real melting pot of influences, and therefore having slotted themselves into an interesting little alcove of the indie landscape. Initial impressions are of group of musicians channelling Massive Attack and Portishead – a comparison that I’m sure they have had and will receive in abundance, given where they are from and that the mix on the album was overseen by Portishead bassist, Jim Barr.
However, ‘Curious Yellow’ is a weird and, at times wonderful, beast which should be judged on its own merit. Ebbing and flowing between regions of trip-hop and stoner indie there is a lot going on here. It is testament to how long they have been doing this as a band that the songs feel like they are absolutely set at the right tone all the way through the album – you don’t get the impression that anything happened by accident or that anything was rushed through just to make a take.
The musical ideas are refreshingly fully-formed and often create a gradually building, framework behind vocalist Maria Charles’ soaring vocals.
But, it is these same vocals that could give somebody coming to this album for the first time pause for thought. Heavily leaning towards a more classical sound, they can sometimes feel as if they would be better suited to old English folk or maybe even something a lot more gothic. This is an easy criticism though and one I am hesitant to make; based on the Soundcloud offerings from Hi-Fiction Science, Charles’ singing style is softening and gaining a soulful sheen which brings it more into line more with what you would expect from a band like this – but is that a good thing? Well, yes and no.
‘1000 Years’, an audio dreamscape which has soaring vocal melodies woven throughout, a lyrical blue mist through the trees, needs to have her slightly mystical tone in it in order for the full effect to come across; it’s a live chill-out session in your brain which details how a voice like that can fit in with a band like this and is one of the stand-out moments of the album. Other high points include title track ‘Curious Yellow’ which reminds me of that time I caught Alison Goldfrapp playing around with an outtake from the first Kasabian album. The repeated hook that pushes you through the song is a work of understated precision and allows a myriad of other textures and flavours to be hung off it.
The contrast between the songs is interesting and means there is something new happening around each corner – and not always a song in the traditional sense really. A lot of the time I got the sense that each piece was designed to paint a mood rather than deliver a specific, lyrical message. This, again, gives a nod to a palette of influences that likely include various areas of dance music – using the layers of music (vocal melody included) to create and shape images in your head. Good solid, shoe-gazey, ride the sonic breeze moments that are rooted in the fact that this is not a bad that only picked up their instruments last year and decided to club together to get an afternoon in the studio that a guy down the pub works for.
It’s an interesting step out into the wider music world and one that has enough going for it for anyone who comes across their off piste sound to certainly keep an eye out for anything else they produce. They have already caught the attention of 6 Music which will do their credibility no harm at all, that coupled with the fact that are aren’t any “stock” formulas being peddled to death anywhere on the album will at least guarantee they won’t be too easily characterised – another stripe on the shoulder of any emerging band.
It isn’t too harsh to say that Hi-Fiction Science may fall into the category of being an acquired taste (although, keep in mind that some of the best music you’ll ever hear could be described as that) but with ‘Curious Yellow’ they have put across a strong case for why they should be given a chance by the masses. If what they do doesn’t quite fit in your ears, that’s fair enough, but if it does cause you to stop and listen, you might just love it.