As the sun, or indeed the moon, sets across the sea the surface shimmers and flickers with a magical road to…. where? There’s no map, nor any guide to the dark depths that walking that road will surely lead you to. That road is a trap, or maybe a dream path to an unconscious reality.
And so it is with the debut album from north west based band Bathymetry. It shimmers, with golden harmonies, across the darkling ripples of something familiar, something just off the edge of the map. You’d know it if you could find it again, but it’s gone, replaced by its near twin, its next iteration.
I’ve listened to album opener and single ‘Goblin Fruit’ a dozen times or more, and I swear that twinkling percussion is new this time. And is that a child-like giggle at the start of ‘Liliput’? As Ariel sings though, there’s something disturbing in the sweetness. ‘she sucked until her lips were sore’, ‘she smiled then she laughed at me’, the way the apparently innocent line ‘I’ll be waiting down below’ is sung as the guitar drops away to leave Emily’s creeping bass line, all have an edge of concealed menace.
There are moments when, if you don’t listen closely, Bathymetry’s songs float by, gorgeous dream pop psych folk. All chiming, wavelike guitars, and sweet female harmonies with a hint of swing. But ‘Honey dripping off your tongue’ according to ‘Sweet Tooth’ leads into ‘hiding rotten gums.’
The calm sea conceals the jagged reef, and can change in moments to a tempest. The songs on this album are laden with hooks to pull you in, and barbs to cut you deeply. Bathymetry move seamlessly from reflecting 60s psych pop to early New York New Wave.
Ariel’s guitar has hints of Marr & Quine, a flavour of acoustic folk picking, maybe a shoegaze nod or two. Her voice, innocent and wild eyed at times, becomes desperate and decadent on a chord change.
Emily, who also sings, and whose voice matches Ariel’s throughout, is the undercurrent. Her basslines not just a pinion for the rest, but the lead at times, holding the road where the map is ambiguous. They’re fluid, that edge of swing I mentioned, teasing out an impish dance. Drummer Dave meanwhile is almost unnoticed at times, playing superficially simple roots for the rest. Then suddenly you realise that magical glimmering tone is his delicate work.
The word dream-like is overused, but Bathymetry’s songs are awash with allusions to sleep, to dream, to the astral plane, whilst the music has that disconcerting knack of being utterly familiar and totally strange simultaneously.
45 minutes, 12 tracks, more ideas per track than many careers. And my favourite track? Could be any one of five or six. Let’s say ‘Evil Leather Jacket’ right now for its catchy, jazzy riff, and that disturbing cackling in the middle. And ‘Goblin Fruit’F is sublime, in the full blown Romantic sense, for me.
But it could be ‘Clementine’ with its nursery rhyme rhythm breaking out into rocking midsection. Or ‘Doldrums’ or… Well, that’s why Bathymetry might be the best band you’ve not yet heard. Go off map, explore the depths, follow the moon road. Float, dive, swim, drown, absorb yourself in the best debut album of 2015 maybe in years.
You can get the album from Bathymetry on their website or at a gig. They’re charming live too.