GHLOW – Levitate (PNK SLM)

Stockholm duo GHLOW have been called many things. Industrial, synth punk, apocalypytic indie thrash, robotic death rave etc etc – each label pasted over the previous one, at risk of reducing their sound to something niche and confined. Three years after debut Slash and Burn, Emille de Blanche and Nikolay Evdokimov are back with Levitate, a fresh collection of tracks that are an exercise in pleasing yourself, ignoring the critics and following your desires.

On Levitate, the main source of GHLOW’s appeal remains intact – chaotic guitar-driven punk splattered with neon gloss paint, lighter fluid, and blood. This time they tweak the equation a little, teasing out some surprisingly tender, perhaps bruised, reflections. The first few tracks are reassuringly familiar, with ‘Big City’ raising feedback hell in its first 30 seconds, reeling around de Blanche’s Siouxsie-intoned nonchaleur. ‘Lost My Mind’ follows, capably keeping pace with its indie rock shoegaze hybrid. Things take an interesting turn on ‘Levitate’, where punchy production reveals the intricate spaces between its many moving, slithering parts. They adopt a similar approach on the Curve-like rattle of ‘Bring it Down’ , with its brutalist drums. However, the real kicker comes from the penetrating bass line on slow-burner ‘Dust’ which pushes into your skull and pokes at your brain like fingers in blancmange.

The second half of Levitate is a mixed bag. Kicking off spectacularly with the riotous and raw dance floor filling nuclear punk track, ‘Golden’ , it’s followed by ‘Radiate’, a more predictable amble which feels like more than its four and a bit minutes. ‘Tricky’ starts promisingly with a slamming, push-pull rhythm and whirring burble of synths, accompanied by Evdokimov’s guitars performing a twisted death-wish parkour. Showing a different side, ‘Slide’ is more airy, synth-driven and introspective with some neat counter rhythms acting as a scaffold to de Blanche’s softer-edged vocal. Levitate leaves in a much more subdued mood than when it entered. The closing track, ‘Sparks,’ with its sharp beats, reverb-heavy vocals, and rumbling bass line, steadily grows and builds. However, it never quite reaches the towering anthem it might be, but drops out suddenly into nothingness. It leaves us feeling a bit disappointed, and at odds with an album that otherwise showcases some exciting new dimensions to GHLOW’s songwriting.

‘Levitate’ is released on 8th March, via PNK SLM.

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