(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, August 30, 2010

CD review - The Tony Castles, No Service (2010)

The Tony Castles are best described as dream pop, with the requisite exploration of sonic texture. But on their upcoming EP, No Service, a mere 5 songs can't help but venture out of that garden. Although the songs vary, they manage to cultivate an altered consciousness feel across the whole EP.

The title cut, No Service leads off with a choppy, ska wave feel which slides into a cleaner dub groove. But then it drifts into more of an experimental sound as the music takes on a twisted soul-pop feel. The vocal style follows along with those changes, channeling Beck's falsetto funk-soul during the soul pop section. The balance between the anxious ska and laid back soul ties the song together.

The single, Black Girls in Dresses also has experimental element. The looped bass groove, keyboard fills, and simple strums are indie pop, but it takes on a dreamy lassitude at the ends of the verses. The lyrics are jumbled to fit the mood, from the black girls of the title to the crap car that the singer bought. The synth lines are catchy as the song slides away. This sounds a little bit like Tom Tom Club, but more laid back.

If Black Girls in Dresses is dreamy, then Dream Job is sonically less restful. Stabbing synth jabs, a lurching bass part, and a weird falsetto vocal give this all the "experimental" cred it needs. Again, this reminds me of Beck.

I was captivated by New Brain. The combination of a faux funk disco bass line, drum machine snare riffs, and languid guitar strums builds a casual indie groove. The bridge moves into a more psychedelic feel that reminded me of Dr. Phibes and the House of Wax Equations. I would have loved to hear this spin out into more heady realms.

The electronic groove of Adequate Sheen anchors a pop sensibility. The synth pop feel builds into a breakdown section that opens up a call and response between a processed bass and distant jangly guitar. After revisiting the synth pop space, the song hits the breakdown again, but this time it wanders further afield into jam band psychedelia.

No Service is a very promising debut. The Tony Castles are currently out on tour with Jamie Lidell and later with Tom Tom Club. No Service is due for release on September 21 (Famous Class Records). I'd pair this with a sweet raspberry daiquiri: familiar, but with a twist.

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