Where the old man sat on the heath overlooking the moors and dry-stone valleys, the wind blows waves of moss through Goathland to Grosmont; to Robin Hood’s Bay where the land tumbles into the bitter North Sea. Even in summer it’s a desolate, unforgiving wilderness of unmade roads where the soil is too thin for trees. Past sundown you might see the odd fox, as an occasional dog barks and lights flicker in the dales below, a Baskervillian masterpiece. There have even been gigs up here in old smugglers inns where everyone camped out in the open because they had no way of getting home. Seminal gatherings in the mist for those in the know that cemented the band’s feral-like existence and added to an otherworldly aura that seemed to surround them. It’s a Godless terrain laid bare on album opener ‘El Dorado’. Dark and windswept but rich in its sparsity where the piano and mournful harmonica are so unexpected and only embellished with an increasingly unsettled and barren monologue; surreal couplets, and a portent of the madness within 24 Carat Diamond Trephine.
“Nobody comes from where we come from” states the band’s bio and, while their live shows became steeped in folklore, releases have been sporadic to say the least; one EP, little more than a demo, until Leeds’ Clue Records tied them into a two single deal last year. But, it was the first album recent release, ‘7’, with its genuinely disturbing and jarring video that really impressed taking the cabin fever ethos of their name to new levels by marrying it with the visceral strangeness of (their dearly departed friend) Dale Barclay’s project …And Yet It Moves; and it’s Dale’s radical free-spirit that courses through this record. Yet Avalanche Party have somehow managed to create something coherent and ordered, and 24 Carat Diamond Trephine is an incredible document of alternative dream-realism in rock. Think Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads but with added North Yorks paranoia.
It’s not enough to simply describe them as a garage band anymore (although they nail the sixties origins of the genre perfectly on ‘Milk & Sunlight Is A Heavy Dream’) and what is striking is how immediate most of 24 Carat Diamond Trephine is. ‘Howl’ is a return to the band’s very early loungey excursions but with such an absurdly catchy chorus as they strive to reinvent and move forward. And, throughout this record there is a lot of space, musically, within the songs that we might not have expected from the immature, maniacal noise of those Clue singles and which allows the new songs to fill all corners and crevices of the room from the cobwebs and candles, the cracked glass of the picture frames and the dusty edges of the 100 year-old shag pile carpets. While this album is perhaps designed to divide opinion between the garage purists and post-punk nihilists, it should also serve to unite the indie vacuum between alternative guitar rock and experimental noise-core.
You, reader, may want more specific references to tracks so ‘HAHA’ is a discomfiting, featureless face of a song and not the first nod to Marilyn Manson here, followed by ‘Hey Misdemeanour’, a cursed piano ballad that shifts with skewed brilliance and out of tune slide guitar, like a moment of gentle but twisted clarity during a long, long night while another, ‘Every Last Drop’, is a gorgeous ode (to Buckfast!) with singer Jordan’s voice yearning like never before.
But 24 Carat Diamond Trephine is an album of transformation, just as the process that turns leaves to coal, and coal to diamonds ‘Cruel Madness’ is less At The Drive-In, more The Mars Volta and the kind of theatrical rock the likes of Alex Turner and Muse might favour, the “new day, new dawn” lyric a blatant burn but also a statement of the company this band now sees itself in. Closer, ‘Rebel Forever’ is an instant classic revisiting ‘Howl’’s giddy and unexpected high points and reprising the El Dorado theme in the lyrics; and with just enough Psycho Killer energy that should see it become a restless reference point for the band; a moment in time, a place, a memory…
…Nobody comes from where Avalanche Party come from and as the last of the feedback blows away across the moors two men scavenge and the wind whistles, one turns to the other and says in a low growl, “…as the rain falls hard and the sky turns black I still got an itch in my dick… You gotta find these avalanches… the greatest fucking thing since Kenny fucking Rogers… You gotta find the avalanches.”