During awards season if gongs were still given for best band name then Methyl Ethel would be swamped, invited to all the best parties and probably make the style pages their own while they were at it. As it is the 4AD band need neither awards nor alternate revenue placement to be either relevant or, indeed, brilliant. At the poppier end of Australia’s alternative scene, their sound may be immediately familiar, the vivid, sinewy paths this album takes as it settles into an alt-indie cycle of abstract musical storyboards and rhythmic lyrical themes is a sublime reworking of the psyche blueprint.
Main man Jake Webb may present himself as the enigmatic loner describing his previous work as genderless, but on Everything Is Forgotten the full band aesthetic has reached androgyny, the subtle difference being this album’s intricate transition from less than ugly duckling into beautiful swan.
If debut Oh Inhuman Spectacle, recorded in rural Perth, was at times bogged down in some sort of inner genre-battle to be different, far from being difficult second album, Everything Is Forgotten has let itself branch out with influences as varied as OK Computer era Radiohead, George Harrison and Moon Safari, not so much on show as courteously veiled. And with James Ford at the helm it’s a more serious and nuanced production all round.
Opener, ‘Drink Wine‘ seeps seamlessly into the looping, reverb laden guitar riffs and layered vocals of lead single ‘Ubu‘, and henceforth into the jangly melodies of No. 28. It’s a late night album for sure but that’s not to say it’s monotonous, every track here has its own distinct identity. Centrepieces ‘Femme Maison/One Man House‘ and ‘Act Of Contrition‘ warp natural distortion and one-chord acoustic reverb into a dissonant dream. The former’s crashing piano chord ending and the latter’s French spoken word sample hook make it all sound so easy. If only it was. Latest release ‘L’Heure des Sorcieres’ sleepisodic, mystical vibe ups the ante without getting too wayward.
‘Groundswell‘, meanwhile, with its medieval guitar harmony, is timeless and upbeat, occasionally reminiscent of staccato eighties pop with shades of Metronomy perhaps, while the hypnotic Field Music/Dutch Uncles time signatures and bass motif of Hyakki Yako mark it out as a future single.
And on ‘Summer Moon‘, Everything Is Forgotten gets darker and more repetitive, bird noises mingle with tribal drums in a remarkable 2 minutes 11 second segment of industrial goth as the album reaches a curious yin before closer ‘Schlager‘ restores the dreamy yang.
And what it may lack in big choruses and instantly hummable hooks, on second and third listens Everything Is Forgotten spreads its metaphorical swan wings and soars majestically around the mirror lake before landing strutting on the shore. Exemplary. And I didn’t even mention Empire Of The Sun.
Everything Is Forgotten is released on 3rd March through 4AD.