The Last Sound - Rainbow Xplode (Osaka)
The artwork and title of The Last Sound's newest release seems to lay its aesthetic cards on the table pretty emphatically: bright bursts of kaleidoscopic colour combined with a hazy filter effect; human figures foregrounded but with their features obscured (indeed there's a definite Boards Of Canada vibe to the cover art). As a pointer to the sounds contained within it's both apt and possibly misleading: Instagram'd chillwave nostalgia is not quite their game; instead, trying to sum up their spectrum of sounds is to risk sounding like an over-excitable NME scribe. Think an invigorating mix of shoegaze, psychedelic pop, krautrock, komische, prog and 80s-new-wave elements. Think of the vaporous, fleeting beauty of the titular optical phenomenon.
Barry Murphy, who more or less is The Last Sound (with drummer Bryan O' Connell a recurring contributor) and has been for over a decade now, has spoken of the markedly pop influence permeating Rainbow Xplode; but the album's accessibility is tempered by multilayered song structures and a certain austere undertow (evident in the mantra-like quality of some of the vocals). Lilting, buoyant lead single 'Sun Forever' has a melancholic and bittersweet quality to it ("sun gone forever"), while the chanted vocals on its coda seem to come from a celestial place. Transcendence is a recurring theme.
The Last Sound: Sun Forever from Osaka Records on Vimeo.
A defining characteristic of the album is the way song structures tend to part and allow intense, dazzling bursts of light in. It's a trick repeated on 'Into Something', 'Three Rock' and 'Brighter', but it's kept fresh by the varying, labyrinthine ways that its set up - 'Three Rock' in particular moves through a succession of clever sections and sub-sections, its rhythm and instrumentation constantly shifting. 'Into Something''s fleet-footed synth pulse, meanwhile, builds momentum to such an extent that it hurtles into the climactic chorus like a train derailing.
Towards the latter stages of the album, things take on a more heads-down quality, with an increased focus on sustaining a groove rather than pulling the rug out from under it. The shimmering 'Motorik Pain' slows the laser-guided flight-path of something like Primal Scream's 'Shoot Speed/Kill Light', giving the track an impression of mirage-like stasis and irresistible motion at the same time.