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Popular Drones

I have no idea whether local trio Loam are fans of Leeds miserabilists iLiKETRAiNS, but on the basis of the Popular Drones EP, they'd make for a fine double bill. In both bands, bare instrument tones play simple figures in saturated sound spaces, creating narratives that are somehow both intimate and impersonal. Both bands also feature a deep, sonorous male lead vocal.

But there the similarity ends, with Loam's stylistic palette seeming a little wider or perhaps simply less settled, as befits a younger band. The five tracks here seem mismatched to me, but it might be fairer to say that the principles of the matching are not apparent, with the two short, lighter and brighter pieces at the back in sharp contrast to the three longer, richer and darker tracks at the front.

I prefer the doom 'n' gloomers myself, but only because the dark stuff feels more complete, as if each were a short film soundtrack in its own right, a bleary montage of six to a dozen scenes stitched neatly together.

Opener 'A Room (in Stockholm)' leverages the Scandi-noir aesthetic of its title to great effect, while 'Courting' feels more like a character piece, starring a version of Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan who's been stripped of his stagey narcissism and left with a wry and Luciferian self-loathing. Holding up the middle is 'Drift', an unsettling mix of inner monologues and muted effects pedal freak-outery that puts me in mind of Swans in their more tuneful moments, before the two bright sketches bring us to a close.

I think the problem isn't that the sketches are bolted on. It's that they need to be understood in the context of the larger, more connected work whose existence the longer pieces imply. Which is an elaborate way of saying: tell 'em to get on and make a full album, eh?

Paul Graham Raven