Retro is usually bad news. Retro is the sound of top 40 radio hits ‘in a Motown style’. Retro is the sound of Paul Weller, for god’s sake don’t start me on Paul Weller…
The Soundcarriers are retro of the other stripe, closer to the ethos of Toe Rag studio’s refusal to use post-60’s gear, Bernard Butler’s refusal to use synths (including Hammond organs) or closer maybe to The La’s insistence that the 60’s mixer have 60’s dust on it. Possibly not as mad as that last one, though.
'Harmonium' by The Soundcarreirs
Their press-release mentions people like David Axlerod, symphonic psychedelic types from the 60’s. Which I can hear in the music, but it doesn’t sound all that American to my ears. I’d place it more with The Zombies and all those English bands caught on the cusp of beat-group and something a bit more out there. Man. You know the kind: the arrangement is slightly over the top, too much for what gear they have, the singer(s) are slightly out of tune and they can’t afford to do another take, it’s being mixed in real-time and the engineer is struggling to keep it all together…
The first thing that will strike you about this record is how damned dirty it sounds. It is filthy. They claim that everything went through valves and otherwise analogue signal paths, and I have no reason to doubt them: everything has a warm hazy sound like some 60’s vinyl album you found of your Dad’s, everything has that old compression sound that they probably nicked from Joe Meek records.
The second thing you’ll notice, is how young they are. I’d guess late 20s, early 30s. This makes sense, anyone who was any good in the 60s who still makes records, makes records using Protools or whatever, a pristine graveyard of vibe and feel, probably with nasty digital synths on it, and slap bass. I’d guess that a lot of kids growing up in the 80s listened to Rick Astley and Bros, and wondered why the vinyl they played out of their parent’s collections sounded so much more… alive. And I’m guessing that The Soundcarriers were those kids.
Listen to: Caught By The Sun or Time Will Come from the album ‘Harmonium’