Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Small Black - Small Black EP (re-issued)

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Long Island duo Small Black have frequently been associated with the chillwave/glo-fi scene, and it’s not hard to see why: Washed Out, arguably the archetypal artist of the genre, is currently touring with Small Black as support, and also released a glorious remix of their ‘Despicable Dogs’; while the duo’s music has the same hazy, out-of-focus quality and nostalgic tone that distinguishes most of the acts grouped under the chillwave banner. However, whereas most of their supposed brethren (Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi, Memory Tapes etc.) deal in fuzzy electronica, Small Black owe more to guitar music, and in particular shoegaze. Submerged, wistful vocals interact with blurry guitar lines and drum-machine loops to create an atmospheric sound that’s alternately dreamy and jarring.

This re-issue of last year’s self-titled EP includes two new tracks, but the main attractions here remain the same. The original ‘Despicable Dogs’ is only slightly less sublime than its remixed version, a melancholic, bittersweet tune whose misty production only adds to its curious emotional power, while ‘Lady In The Wires’ and ‘Bad Lover’ soar understatedly. In many ways this is the beauty of Small Black’s aesthetic: the anthemic qualities of their songs are downplayed in favour of a more impressionistic approach, and they sound all the better for it. The twilit wash of ‘Pleasant Experience’ is atmospheric and evocative even in this distinguished company, while new addition ‘Kings of Animals’ (originally included on the ‘Despicable Dogs’ 7”) interrupts the mood somewhat, being as it is the punkiest number in their repertoire.

Recent reports indicate that Small Black have been fleshing out their sound (and increasing their line-up) ahead of their first full-length, and you can’t blame them for wanting to avoid the inevitable chillwave backlash (what do you mean it’s already started?!). Still, they could do a whole lot worse than further exploring the beguiling sound they’ve created on this release – genre tags blur into irrelevance when it comes to music this good.

Small Black - Despicable Dogs by musicmule

Small Black: Bad Lover from Nick Bentgen on Vimeo.

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