Writing weird songs is never straightforward. It’s as complicated as it sounds, and it’s been doubly complicated for London’s alternative rock foursome Gengahr. Unfazed by the hype, undeterred by naming disputes with New York rappers, and no longer content with playing second fiddle to bands like Alt-J, Gengahr’s debut LP ‘A Dream Outside’ is a roaring sphere of experimental guitars and a pristine, provocative sound. Floppy fringed, rakish and refined, Gengahr are ready to take the music industry by the balls.
On first listen, there’s something distinctly fairground about the band’s debut album. The slowly-but-surely carousel of ‘Bathed In Light’ and bumper-car ‘Heroine’ sum up the hooks and handy guitar work that resonate an Unknown Mortal Orchestra style sound. ‘Heroine’, in particular, coughs up a number of influences, from the lowly riffing of Sparklehorse and MGMT to the folky undertones of Avi Buffalo. Veering away from the more pop orientated tracks, the likes of ‘Dark Star’ takes an instrumental digression of rattling drums and delayed guitars that both inspire and boggle the mind.
“Sharp in tonality, broad in scope and tightly knitted together, Gengahr’s sound burns like a solid blue flame.”
As is the case with most great albums, behind a tangible backdrop of skilled songwriting beats the heart of a true lyricist. As abstract as their musical friends Alt-J, ‘Embers’ is a romantically confused frag grenade of feedback and poetry: “Restless you’ll cry to cold, the wind through the trees leaves you raw.” Indeed, one gets the impression that these lyrics are designed to be sung at you rather than with you by the eerie tenor of frontman Felix Bushe. The most vibrant and interesting part of the Gengahr’s songwriting within ‘A Dream Outside’ is, however, the fractions between guitars and bass. Intent on making a racket, tracks like ‘Powder’ and ‘She’s A Witch’ play with the sun-drenched soundscapes of psychedelica and alternative rock, whilst the bass lines steer the bands rhythms and harmonies into a patently pop direction.
‘A Dream Outside’ does not just lay on a jumble of rampant guitar hooks though. The delicate rumbling of ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’ takes a sideways acoustic step into something a little more folky. Stripped back, Gengahr’s sound really begins to shine; because, lets face it, any band can hide their songwriting behind a wall of reverb and feedback. With more naked styles of songwriting, a band’s true sound can be formed. Built around jazzy drums, choppy guitars and a rolling bass line, ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’ gives of the free-cut vibes of a jam session turned into an album recording. Moreover, in the same way ‘Lonely As A Shark’ rings a level of intimacy in Gengahr’s sound. Touching on idea of isolation, Bushe again sounds of lyrics packed with meaning: “Soft in the middle, melting away, lonely as a shark in dark room, counting away”. In his own candid way, Bushe has found a way of reaching out to his band’s listeners.
‘A Dream Outside’ is, in every essence, an album to relate to, to lose yourself to, and to come out again breathing a little heavier. Driven by a desire to make music that is weird, different and exciting is exactly what is keeping this band on the tongues of the industry and press alike.
Speaking to DIY Magazine, the band confessed that their curious brand of alt-rock was “building up to something”.
What it has built up to in their first album, then, is something quite spectacular. A mountain of sound that slowly but violently collapses on itself with every listen. This is weird music, and it’s fucking brilliant.
You can download Gengahr’s debut LP ‘A Dream Outside’ from iTunes by clicking here.
For Fortitude Magazine: http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/alt-indie/album-review-gengahr-dream-outside/25623/